Your gallbladder is a pear-sized organ found beneath your liver on the right side of your abdominal cavity. Its function is to store bile produced in your liver and secrete it into your small intestines. Bile is a fluid that helps you digest fats.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system developed in China more than 2,000 years ago.

Practitioners of this alternative medicine believe a type of energy called qi flows through the body in pathways called meridians. It’s thought that a qi imbalance can lead to health problems or illness.

Acupressure and acupuncture are two techniques with origins rooted in TCM thought to be able to release blocked qi.

Acupressure is a type of massage where the practitioner applies pressure at certain points around your body to stimulate the flow of qi. Acupuncture is similar but the practitioner uses needles instead of their hands.

Keep reading to find out the role of the gallbladder in acupuncture and acupressure.

The definitions of organs in TCM are different than the definitions you may be used to in traditional Western medicine.

In TCM, it’s believed that there are 12 primary meridians in the body. Meridians are strings of connected acupuncture points that are thought to be the pathways for flowing energy. Each meridian relates to an organ in the human body.

The gallbladder is thought to be one of these 12 meridians, and its acupuncture points run from your foot to your shoulder.

Meridians come in yin and yang pairs. The gallbladder is a yang organ that’s paired with the liver. If either organ is out of harmony, the other can be negatively impacted.

The primary function of the gallbladder in TCM is to control the flow of bile. In TCM, bile is considered to have the same function as it does in Western medicine — to help with digestion by breaking down fats.

Proponents of TCM believe that, along with their anatomical function, organs also play a role in other aspects of your health.

The gallbladder is often thought to play a role in the health of your muscles and connective tissue as well as your courage, judgment, and decision-making.

The gallbladder meridian, also called the gallbladder channel, runs from your fourth toe, through your foot, up your leg, through your trunk, and to the top of your shoulder.

There’s one gallbladder pathway on each side of your body. There are 44 acupuncture points along this meridian channel.

It’s thought that stimulating these points with acupuncture or acupressure can help restore the proper flow of qi through your gallbladder.

It’s thought that a qi imbalance in your gallbladder can lead to:

  • timidity
  • lack of confidence
  • poor decision-making
  • poor judgment
  • digestive issues such as nausea
  • gallstones
  • muscle and body pain

According to Western medicine, dysfunction of the gallbladder can cause:

A variety of treatments may be used to treat gallbladder qi imbalances. These treatments include:

  • Acupuncture. There are a limited number of high-quality studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture. There’s some evidence it may help with low back pain, osteoarthritis, and pregnancy-induced nausea.
  • Acupressure. A 2017 study found that acupuncture in combination with physical therapy may help reduce lower back pain.
  • Moxibustion. Moxibustion involves burning a stick or cone made from mugwort leaves near your acupuncture points. Although it’s used for many different ailments, there’s limited evidence providing its effectiveness and much of the research is conflicting.
  • Herbal cures. A variety of herbal remedies are used to treat meridian imbalances. However, herbs should be taken carefully and with a doctor’s consultation since some of them can contain heavy metals or toxins.
  • Tai chi and qi gong. Tai chi and qi gong are two forms of gentle exercise that are often prescribed in TCM.

There’s no medical or scientific evidence that meridian points exist.

Research on acupuncture is limited and many of the studies reporting benefits found that “sham acupuncture,” which is an acupuncture placebo, had the same effect.

However, researchers may have found an explanation of why certain areas were selected as acupuncture points.

In a 2019 study, researchers at the University of Vienna dissected four cadavers. They found that there was a close connection between acupuncture points and a layer of connective tissue beneath the skin called fascia.

In this study, the bladder and large intestine meridians tended to follow parts of muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Although there’s no evidence to support meridian theory, many of the principles of TCM, like reducing stress and performing relaxing activities like tai chi, may make TCM a useful complementary treatment when combined with Western medicine.

Proponents of TCM believe that qi, or lifeforce energy, flows through 12 meridians in the body. If this qi gets blocked, it can lead to health issues.

It’s thought that the gallbladder meridian plays a role in your judgment ability, decision making, digestion, and your muscle and connective tissue health.

There’s limited evidence showing that acupuncture is any more effective than a placebo for curing any medical issues. However, it’s relatively safe and unlikely to have any serious side effects.