In addition to the 12 main acupuncture meridians that flow along the surface of the body, there are also deeper channels of energy in the body called the Extraordinary Vessels. You can understand the relationship between the primary acupuncture channels and the Extraordinary Vessels by thinking about what happens when it rains: first, small ditches become full – these are the collateral vessels that break off of the 12 main channels. Next, the reservoirs become full, which are the 12 primary channels. When they are full, they overflow into the Extraordinary Vessels, which are deep and vast lakes of energy within the body.
The Dai Mai, or Girdle Vessel, is one such Extraordinary Vessel. It is unique because it is the only channel - primary or extraordinary - that flows horizontally. The Dai Mai originates at a liver meridian point on the lateral ribs, descends to the waist line and then encircles the waist like a belt. In the back, it connects with a side branch of the kidney meridian.
The Dai Mai divides the body into two halves, and it has the essential function of keeping energy flowing effectively between those two halves. If the Du Mai is too tight, then energy can’t flow properly, causing pain, sluggishness or a feeling of heaviness through the whole body. It can also cut off energy circulation to the legs, causing pain, cold legs and tense outer leg muscles.
If the Dai Mai is slack or weak, then energy can’t rise properly, which can cause many different health problems. When the Dai Mai is too weak or loose, fluids and dampness can pool in the Lower Burner, causing symptoms such as difficult urination, cloudy urine and excessive vaginal discharge. A weak Dai Mai also means energy can’t flow properly into the channels of the legs, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. When the Dai Mai is weak, it can’t adequately hold the kidney’s essence, which depletes many other Extraordinary Vessels. When the Dai Mai is slack, energy cannot rise through the body, leading to such problems as hernias, organ prolapse and recurrent miscarriages.
The Dai Mai is closely related to the liver and gallbladder energy systems, based on its trajectory and what points it overlaps with. It helps to regulate excessive energy in those systems. This makes it useful for treating symptoms such as temporal headaches, migraines, anger, gallbladder pain and chronic neck and shoulder tension.
Based on its pathway, the Dai Mai can also be used to effectively treat abdominal pain, low back pain and hip pain. It can be treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tai chi, qi gong and many other forms of exercise.