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The Kidneys, Low Back, & Knees: Anatomical Correspondences

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is said that the “kidneys control bones” (1). TCM theory suggests that many low back and knee pathologies can be attributed to the overall health of the kidneys and their “water element”. Is there an anatomical and/or physiological merit to these patterns observed by doctors of the ancient past? I believe so.

Shape Correspondence:

The kidneys are often described as being crescent or bean shaped. Intervertebral discs, the shock absorbers between each vertebrae in your spine, are anatomically described as being kidney or bean shaped in your lumbar region. The vertebral body of the lumbar vertebrae is also described as being kidney shaped which matches the shape of the intervertebral disc. Interestingly, thoracic vertebral bodies are heart shaped. The kidneys reside in the lumbar region while the heart resides in the thoracic region.

The meniscus, another shock absorber but this time for your knee, is crescent moon shaped and is occasionally referred to as being kidney shaped. The are 2 menisci, one medial (inner) and one lateral (outer) in each knee. The kidney organ is a yin organ which means its acupuncture channel traverses the inner part of the leg. Of the two menisci in each knee, it is the medial meniscus that appears more crescent/kidney shaped when compared to its lateral counterpart which matches the trajectory of the kidney channel.