The Bladder & Kidney according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Bladder & Kidney System According to TCM

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, there are six yin organs that are paired with six yang organs. They work together. The vital substances (such as Qi, blood, yin and yang) are stored within the yin organ systems. The yang organ systems are more active, and their primary function is to constantly be filled and emptied of the vital substances. One can not work without the other. 

The bladder organ system is a perfect example of a yang organ. In Western medicine, it is a reservoir for holding urine before it is evacuated. To do this, in TCM, the bladder uses Qi (energy) and heat from its paired yin organ, the kidneys. It is important to remember that while Chinese Medical theory was being developed their method of learning was through observation of the elements, and observation of injuries most likely occurred on the battle field. They did not believe in dissection. As a result, the function of the organs can be seen in every day life.  For example, the kidneys are thought to be the root of life. It is the fire that heats (just like cooking). Just like one cannot cook an adequate meal without fire, one can not live without enough fire.   

Paradoxically, even though the kidneys are the “fire,” both the kidneys and the bladder are related to the water element. Water element which can be seen in the bladder’s function of holding “water.” 

Urination is an essential component to the function of our bodies. You will not survive long without being able to evacuate the body’s toxins. As such, the bladder plays in important role through its ability to fill and empty the body of urine, and just as importantly containing it until an appropriate time. Frequently, it is the deficiency of the kidney yang (fire) than can cause incontinence. Truly they work together. 

The bladder system in TCM has many other functions besides transformation and excretion. 

As mentioned above, the bladder is paired with the kidney, and the kidneys are the root of life. Which makes it one of the most important energy systems in TCM.  The kidneys store the deepest level of energy (the jing or essence), and are the root of all yin and yang in the body. 

The kidneys are located under the twelfth rib, and the bladder meridian runs right through that area. The bladder meridian has not one, but two pathways down the back lateral to the spine. One of the most common symptoms of kidney deficiency is low back pain and knee pain (the kidney governs the low back and knees). Hence, treating the bladder meridian would be one of the most efficient ways of treating it.  

In case you were curious. The bladder channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the top of the head, down the neck and the back on either side of the spine, through the sacrum and down the back of the leg to the knee. Then the channel travels back up to the top of the back and begins its downward trajectory again, tracing another trail down the length of the back, more lateral than the first. It then continues down the back of the leg to the outside of the pinky toe.  

The bladder channel is one of the longest channels in the body. Which makes it efficient at treating most kinds of neck, back, sacra, hamstring, calf, and achilles pain. 

Every organ/energy system in TCM effects both the physical and emotional levels. 

Fear is associated with the kidneys. Excess fear can weaken the kidneys over time, but irrational fear is a manifestation of a kidney imbalance. Since the bladder and kidneys are linked, the bladder meridian is frequently used to treat fear. Negative emotions such as jealousy, suspicion, and the inability to let go of grudges is associated with the bladder being out of balance. 

To ensure a healthy bladder, make sure you drink plenty of water. Not soda, not flavored carbonated water, not coffee or juice, just good old plain filtered (ZeroWater is a great water filtration option) water.   

Nourishing the kidney is easier than you think, just include foods like bone broth, beans, legumes, & walnuts in your diet. Avoid greasy and processed foods.

Stretching is also beneficial for both the kidney and bladder system, as it keeps the energy moving through the meridians.  Especially, movements that focus on stretching the whole posterior portion of your body.   

Other therapies to consider are acupuncture, massage, myofascial release, cupping, gua sha, tuina, reiki. Contact Calandra Center for Health and Wellness in Chicago or Arlington Heights to learn more about these therapies.



Teri Calandra, Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health and Wellness in Chicago, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).