Okay, the point I want to talk about today is Gallbladder 20, which is located on the back of the neck, as you can see. Before I say anything specific about the point, let’s discuss it in relation to the Gallbladder Meridian in general. The Gallbladder Meridian belongs to the wood element, associated with the liver and the pathway of the gallbladder region. It runs along the side of the body, through the neck and head, to the side of the head. So we’re talking about balance. Balancing one side of the body with the other, the sides of the head, and the neck.
Since this is a yang meridian, we know that we’re likely to be talking about affecting the pathway of the wood element overall, using a point to influence the whole meridian rather than the gallbladder organ specifically. I’m not saying you never use a Gallbladder point to influence the gallbladder, but it’s much more likely that you’d use it to influence the pathway of the Gallbladder Meridian and the effects that has.
Being on the neck, it must be a strategically important point. We often forget how small the neck really is, housing all the blood vessels and nerves from the brain and spinal cord. It’s a very tight, restricted area. The whole weight of the head rests on the atlas and axis, requiring strong muscles for support. It’s clear that using a point around this area would be useful for relieving neck stiffness or tightness, restricted movement of the head, or influencing the flow of blood, Qi, lymph, etc., through this area to the brain.
Gallbladder 20 is known as Wind Pool or Wind Palace. This means it’s a place on the body that can get attacked by wind. For instance, going out on a cold day without a scarf can lead to cold wind penetrating your neck, possibly causing headaches.
Therefore, Gallbladder 20 can be useful to relieve tension, helping the body remove the wind and easing tension in the sides of the head, neck, and shoulders.
Consulting the books confirms this, as they talk about stiff neck, ear problems, moving Qi in the head, and aiding people with poor memory. This memory function is related to the concept in Chinese medicine of energy rising from the kidneys through the neck to nourish the brain. Needling Gallbladder 20 can help support this nourishing process.
The depth for needling this point, as given in one of my books, is just over half a cun. However, I often needle this point about an inch deep, aiming the needle towards the opposite eye.
Another book suggests its use for orientation, perspective, and mental clarity, which makes sense if you consider the flow of Qi to the sides of the head.
The concept of internal wind can also be relevant here, often generated by emotions such as anger, leading to symptoms like convulsions, muscle spasms, rapidly changing pains, or headaches. Gallbladder 20 can help release this internal wind.
In Chinese medicine, there’s a concept called ‘window points’ or ‘Windows of the Sky points.’ Although there aren’t any specific Window of Sky points on the Gallbladder or Liver channels, the wood element is still extremely relevant to this theory. Gallbladder 20, for example, is considered an ideal point for addressing the deepest levels of vision and discernment as they relate to mental and emotional functioning. Lonny Jarrett describes it as a potent point for clearing senses, brightening the eyes, and empowering the reciprocal relationship between accurate perception of reality and the brightness of the Shen, i.e., the brightness of the spirit as reflected in the eyes. This point, therefore, carries a spiritual connotation for some, essentially connecting the head to the body. In simpler terms, it can be seen as a critical point among those around the neck, influencing both physical and spiritual well-being.
Recent research reinforces this view by highlighting the connection between the heart and the brain. A study by researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, and Purdue University, involving over 40,000 subjects, revealed significant interactions between heart MRI traits and various aspects of brain health. This study emphasizes the genetic and phenotypic connections between cardiovascular health and cognitive and mental health, suggesting that heart conditions may have genetic causal effects on brain disorders. Further research by neuroscientist Esra Al at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences showed how the heart’s beating can subtly affect brain function, including motor functions and sensory perceptions.
These findings, aligning with traditional Chinese medicine, highlight the complex and intertwined nature of our physical and mental health. The heart-brain connection, as understood in both modern science and ancient medicinal practices, underscores the importance of holistic approaches in health and wellness.
Lastly, about the technique: I usually use a 40mm needle, not inserting it all the way in, especially since people often have hair there. The easiest position for needling is with the person lying on a couch, looking down through a hole in the couch so the neck is nicely exposed. However, if you need to combine Gallbladder 20 with other points best accessed while the person is on their back, you can insert the needle while they’re sitting up, then gently lay them back. As they lower the head onto a pillow you can position it so that the needles are not obstructed.
Most of the time, we’re going to want to use this point to help the neck relax and let things settle naturally. This is generally a point to let Qi and blood flow, relax tight muscle, allow pathogens to be expelled and to nourish the brain (and heart perhaps?) Therefore its really always used with a sedation or calming needle technique rather than a tonification.