why are you doing that point_GV20_fullBy Sara Calabro

Time for the April edition of “Why Are You Doing That Point?” This ongoing series explains the locations and common uses of popular acupuncture points.

So far we’ve looked at Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4, two acupuncture points that frequently come together in a combination called Four Gates, and Stomach 36, known for its energizing qualities.

This installment of “Why Are You Doing That Point?” will look at Governing Vessel 20.

Governing Vessel 20—also known as Baihui (Chinese name), Hundred Meetings (English translation), GV20 (acupuncturist lingo) and DU20 (alternate acupuncturist lingo)—is located on the top of the head.

If you place a finger at the top of each ear and follow an imaginary line upward, Governing Vessel 20 is located where your two fingers converge (see picture below).

This needle really gets stuck in your head

Governing Vessel 20, perhaps more than any other acupuncture point, inspires curiosity and open mindedness. It gets people asking about acupuncture and extending themselves to expand their perspectives on health.

All of acupuncture does this. But with an unparalleled amount of consistency, Governing Vessel 20 seems to spark a shift.

Whenever I do Governing Vessel 20 in a community-acupuncture setting, almost without fail, either the person receiving the point or someone looking on will ask, why are you doing that point? And often, if one person gets the point, others in the room will ask, can I get the one on the top of the head, too?

Interest in Governing Vessel 20 isn’t limited to community acupuncture. In private settings as well, again and again, I get inquires about and requests for Governing Vessel 20.

There’s something about this point that really intrigues people.

The fascination with Governing Vessel 20 creates an opening for acupuncturists to share some acupuncture theory and perhaps a new way of looking at a problem. But more importantly, it causes the person receiving needles to reflect on why he or she is attracted to this particular point.

One of acupuncture’s most profound effects is that it brings awareness to what our bodies and minds are really asking for.

In biomedicine, the thinking is, doctor knows best about what you need—and here, this pill will do it. In acupuncture, you know best about what you need—and here, this needle might remind you. Governing Vessel 20 is a perfect example of this.

Why is everyone talking about the point on the top of the head?

And so, the obvious question: Why are so many people drawn to Governing Vessel 20?

The initial curiosity about Governing Vessel 20 usually has to do with its location. There is, after all, a needle being stuck near the brain. However, even after fears are settled—acupuncture needles cannot penetrate the skull, plus the point is always needled transversely—the intrigue remains.

It’s almost as if people inuit that a point on the tippy top of the head must mean something important. And they would be correct.

Governing Vessel 20 is the meeting point of all of the body’s Yang energy. Yang in acupuncture theory represents the energetic, extroverted aspects of a person. Yang is hot, bright, loud, firm, expanding, excessive, robust. It is the relative opposite of all things Yin—the cold, dark, quiet, contracting, deficient, weak aspects.

Someone who has too much Yang may feel warm when other people are comfortable or even chilly. He may feel agitated and irritable, or suffer from insomnia and/or experience nightmares. He may be constipated, crave cold drinks and appear red in the face. Basically there’s too much heat, and too much activity happening in the upper part of the body.

Someone with too little Yang would have the opposite presentation. He may feel constantly cold and even experience chills. He tends toward loose stools and profuse, clear urine. Feeling physically fatigued or emotionally drained is also common.

Whether it’s a case of two much or too little Yang, Governing Vessel 20 is called upon to regulate.

Governing Vessel 20 also is used on people who describe feeling “out of it” or unable to concentrate. The point helps stimulate and sharpen mental faculties, making a person more alert and present. When I was in acupuncture school, we always tapped on our Governing Vessel 20s before big exams.

For these same reasons, the point is useful for people who suffer from depression. It raises emotional energy. It also helps raise things physically. Governing Vessel 20 is used to treat cases of rectal or uterine prolapse. And since the Governing Vessel meridian follows along the entire spine, Governing Vessel 20 is an excellent point for back pain caused by poor posture.

When I describe these various functions of Governing Vessel 20 to inquiring patients, I ask them to visualize that they are being literally pulled up, straightened, from the top of the head.

Governing Vessel 20 is a conversation starter and a crowd pleaser. Now you know why.

Next up on “Why Are You Doing That Point?” is Spleen 6.

Photo by Sara Calabro; GV20 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture

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