Low Back Pain and Kidney Qi

Healthy low backHere in southern Australia winter has finally come and the Water Element has spread over the land. The colder weather brings challenges for many people, not least of which is the stress it can place on the low back. I tend to see more low back complaints in my treatment room at this time of year. Why is this?

As I reflected last time, the kidneys are the storehouses of our Qi. When we push our limits by doing too much, not sleeping enough, not staying warm enough, or even having a lot of sex, we can drain our Kidney Qi. If we do these things in the winter, the strain is all the greater. If there is any imbalance in the Water Element, it is more likely to reveal itself in the winter. One of the ways this can show up is in strain, pain and stiffness in the lumbar area.

There are two points in the low back that are very helpful in supporting the Kidney Qi and the Water Element. These lie on the inner and outer lines of the Bladder meridian which run down the back on either side of the spine like sets of railway tracks. These points of the back are called shu points and are found at the vertebral junctions. Each shu point relates to one of the twelve organs. The word shu means transporting, suggesting that the point transports energy directly to the associated organ. The Kidney shu points lie in the lumbar area, on either side of the spine at the level of the navel.

The inner shu point BL 23 (Kidney Shu) directly treats the kidneys themselves and provides access to our deepest reserves of Qi. It also helps with hearing and the ears, the sense organs of the Kidney. Other conditions helped by this point include urination problems, feeling the cold, impotence and infertility. It is the classic point for low back pain and is the focal point for the low back release which I teach in my workshops.

The outer shu point BL 52 (Residence of the Will) also tonifies the kidneys and strengthens the low back. In addition it addresses the psycho-emotional aspects of Water. As its name suggests, it strengthens the will (zhi), allowing access to courage and determination. It supports a person who is experiencing chronic fear and anxiety which are detrimental to the kidneys and Kidney Qi. In such cases this point can assuage fear by providing access to basic trust in the inherent supportiveness of true nature.

Location of BL 23 & 52

BL 23:52These points are in the low back at the level of the junction between vertebrae L2 and L3. This is roughly at the level of the navel. BL23 lies 1.5 cun (two fingers width) outside the spine. BL 52 is 3 cun (four fingers width) outside the spine. If you are working on someone else, have them lie face down and apply direct pressure with your thumbs for 2-3 minutes. If you are working on yourself, lie on your back, make fists and place your knuckles into the points. A quick treatment of these points is to sit in a chair and rub your knuckles up and down across these points. It is a stimulating and warming practice on a cold winter’s day.


Learn the low back and pelvis release patterns. Workshops in Adelaide (August 3rd) and Mount Barker (June 22nd & August 10th). Contact me for more information.