The Xi-Cleft points, one for each acupuncture channel, are mainly used for acute conditions along the channel in question.
However, I find them useful as supplementary points or, occasionally, as main points on a channel when the zang-fu – the energy organ – in question needs treatment. Of course, like any acupuncture point, a xi-cleft point can be used for problems local to it.
What do Xi-Cleft points DO?
The original idea for them goes back to a discussion by Huangfu Mi (who wrote the Jiayi Jing, the first main textbook elucidating acupuncture in detail) first recorded in 282 AD, so the idea is old. Acupuncture theory developed during at least the 1000 years before even that, so the writer had quite some experience to draw on.
The word “xi” means a small gap, or hole, or cleft in the same way we might talk about a cleft in a cliff.
The idea is that of energy moving up the arm or leg, along the acupuncture channel (meridian) towards the body. Like a mountain stream, at some point it disappears underground for a while.
Where it disappears is the ‘xi’ or ‘cleft’ point. You could say that this is where it gets serious!
Xi-Cleft points are where it gets serious!
If there is some blockage further along the stream, and the stream has not yet had time to work out an alternative route, the ‘xi-cleft’ point is where you might first notice the energy ‘backing up’ because it can’t get through: almost as if an energy pool forms there because it can’t drain down into the earth. Another name for these points is ‘accumulation‘ which describes the Qi and Blood backing up.
Of course, there’ll be discomfort further along, which is what you notice. For example
acute stomach pain in the case of the Stomach channel, or
perhaps an acute cough in the case of the Lung channel.
But if using acupuncture or acupressure, the Xi-cleft point may be highly effective. The theory says that you are not treating the discomfort as such, but the disturbance in the flow of Qi and Blood which is the cause of the problem.
The idea is that if you can clear the Xi-cleft point, the Qi and Blood will start flowing again. By definition, pain arises when Qi and Blood can’t flow smoothly, so getting them moving stops pain.
Yang and Yin Xi-cleft points treat pain
Xi-cleft points on both Yin and Yang channels deal with acute, often painful, conditions.
‘Acute’ means they arise suddenly or very severely. The kind of examples these might be include – on the channel in question:
Because Qi and Blood ‘back up’ or ‘accumulate’ due to a blockage further along the channel, conditions for which they are used are usually excess, rather than deficient. So acupuncturists mostly disperse the energy at the point.
If you are using them with acupressure, you should in theory apply gentle but firm pressure and try to massage away the soreness at the point. Of course, if the point is excruciating, don’t! Otherwise you’ll end up with even more pain and discomfort.
Indeed, in this situation, an acupuncturist might use several points along the channel or its partner channel, as well as the xi-cleft point, thereby dispersing some of the excess Qi and making treatment at the xi-cleft point less sore. Or, knowing the theory, he might find another point on an associated channel that clears pain at the xi-cleft point he wants to use, after which he would use the xi-cleft point in question. (Theory? Another theory? I hear you say. Well, acupuncture is stuffed with theory. In this case, it might be theory from Japanese acupuncture or from the Tan balance method.)
But because they are usually used this way doesn’t mean they must always be used this way. The points are perfectly respectable acupuncture points in their own right! They can be used at other times when acute problems don’t exist.
Using them for chronic conditions can sometimes be very effective, either on their own or as part of a well-designed treatment following a proper diagnosis in Chinese medicine.