The Kidney Return Protocol 4.97/5 (68)

Some patients are easy to treat. Some patients are harder.

The truth is, the longer you are in practice, the more patients you see, and the more experience you gain. Then, the inevitable happens. You begin getting patients who are harder and harder to treat.  Getting patients who are harder to treat often means you need to grow your skill set with more “Advanced Practitioner” skills. This blog post is geared toward advanced practitioners who have moved beyond the basics, and are looking for new and innovative ways to create balance in patients who are really deficient.

Excess Energy vs Deficient Energy

I have found that robust patients with an excess of energy in the acupuncture pathways are easier to fix than those who have deficient energy.

Too much energy in an acupuncture pathways is often indicative of qi and blood stagnation in the tendinomuscular meridians—a.k.a., pain. The first goal is to create balance in the acupuncture channels, then resolve qi and blood stagnation at the area of pain to remove stagnation in the tendinomuscular pathway. Once the excess is resolved, the pain typically resolves as well.

Patients with general, overall deficient energy levels are a little more complicated. If you don’t have enough qi to work with, it’s kind of hard to reorganize and create flow.

These patients present as very weak, exhausted, depleted, and sometimes lethargic. They describe their quality of life as miserable; no energy, and unmotivated—as if they have lost their spark.

Often, these patients are recovering from an illness, surgery, or the birth of a baby. Many of them have chronic conditions such as autoimmune disorders. This is also a typical presentation for hospice and chemotherapy patients.

In AcuGraph you will often see really a low average (a.k.a. “Chi Energy Level”). Notice the picture above. The average for this patient is only 25. We have always taught practitioners that when the average is really low, the patient likely didn’t get enough sleep, is elderly, or has chronic health conditions. Suggested treatment strategies up to this point included treating the Jing Well points with laser or microcurrent to help the energy shift.

I’m doing something different now and I’m getting really GREAT results.

A “New” Strategy

Let me introduce you to the Kidney Return Protocol. I’m not sure if the word new is really precise, so I’ll give you a little background.

  • This strategy is somewhat new to me. I was introduced to it about three years ago by Dr. Jake Fratkin.
  • Dr. Fratkin learned it from Miki Shima in his early years of study.
  • Miki Shima is known for expanding the thinking of next generation acupuncturists in the 1970’s and 1980’s with a combination of modern Japanese style diagnostic strategies, channel divergences, and ion pumping cords.
  • This protocol is NEW because it’s not part of ancient TCM which began over 4000 years ago.
  • Currently, we are using electronic diagnostic of acupuncture pathways with AcuGraph analysis and modern tools such as laser and/or ion pumping cords.

In Miki Shima’s book “The Channel Divergences” he teaches more deeply on the subject of the divergent channels. One aspect of the divergent channel treatment involves a special Kidney Return Protocol to help boost energy levels for really deficient patients. Shima taught that “before you can begin treatment [for patients with extremely depleted energy levels] you have to FIRST rally up whatever reserves of Kidney qi remain.”

The treatment protocol Shima recommends is really quite simple, yet extremely effective. He uses six needles (three acupuncture points treated bilaterally), and four ion pumping cords. The purpose of this protocol is to  to rally up energy from the Kidney reserves and redistribute the energy so it can be more effective.

Ion pumping cords are fascinating to work with. Instead of typical cords used in electroacupuncture, ion pumping cords use the natural electricity generated from the body to do the work. The black end pulls energy out, and the red end puts it back in in. I like to think of it as taking from the rich and giving to the poor. For this protocol, the black end pulls energy reserves from BL 40 and the red ends redistribute energy back to BL 23 and BL 11.

The choice of points combined with the ion pumping cord treatment strategies are really quite synergistic.

NOTE: As I’m sure you are aware, I’m quite the point nerd. Ya know…. “That girl” who likes to sit around and read textbooks to know the energy and action of each point.

Take a look at how beautifully these points compliment a patient with extreme deficiency.

  • Bladder 40 is the He Sea point so it runs really deep. It is also the command point for the back, so it has the power to make the other bladder points in the protocol more effective. It also clears heat from the blood. Qi and blood work together as a team. If the patient lacks qi, they of course lack blood. If the blood levels are low, it’s natural to develop deficiency heat. 
  • Bladder 23 is the Back Shu of the Kidney. Because it goes directly to the source it not only strengthens the Kidney but benefits essence. This point also strengthens the body’s ability to transform the remaining qi and therefore tonify yin
  • Bladder 11 is a major crossing point which interconnects the Bladder, Small Intestine, Triple Energizer, Gallbladder, and the Governing Vessel. I imagine Bladder 11 having the power to unlock the gate to access qi from each of these pathways to gain strength. It is also categorized as the Sea of Blood and the Influential point of bones. 

A Kimberly Analysis

If I were going to personally name this protocol, I’d call it the “Bone Broth Treatment”. Imagine the patient once again… The patient is so weak, that he/she cannot even handle a basic bowl of soup with good nutrients in it. (Tonification and sedation points are not enough. Even the extraordinary points do not go deep enough to do the trick). This patient is so depleted that you have to build them up first with the very basic resources that exist.

To me, the points chosen to supplement the patient’s basic natural resources, look exactly like what I would put into a recipe for Bone Broth soup (Kidney Essence, Sea of Blood, Bone Marrow, Yin). 

Patients report feeling extremely relaxed during a Kidney Protocol Return treatment. They often go into a deep sleep. They have renewed energy levels. This is different than having enough energy to go out and go dancing. It more of an inner strength which allows them to heal.

I have had many “thank you” messages from my patients. Remember, by the time these difficult patients wind up in your office, they have often tried almost everything else. When something finally helps them to begin the healing process, they are SOOOO grateful for you and your advanced practitioner skills.

Do you Want to Learn More?

There are several resources available for you…

  1. In our newest update of AcuGraph 5, we have included the Kidney Return Protocol. Here’s a blog post and a video from Dr. Larsen to help you find the protocol in AcuGraph 5! 
  2. Dr. Larsen and I recently did a webinar with a lot more details about the Kidney Return Protocol. If you are on the AcuGraph 5 Professional or Enterprise plan, that webinar can be found in your AcuGraph User Account. If you are not yet updated to AcuGraph 5, what are you waiting for? We have a ton of webinars for basic and advanced AcuGraph users. Click here to find out more about updating to AcuGraph 5 >>
  3. Read my follow-up post to this post called Case Study: The Kidney Return Protocol. In this post I go through a case study with a specific patient and the results I got using the Kidney Return Protocol!

How to Get Ion Pumping Cords

Are you using ion pumping cords in your clinic? I recommend the Ion Pumping Cord Deluxe Starter Pack, which includes…

  • SIX (6) complete cords, each approximately 80″ (200 cm) in length
  • Battery powered cord tester
  • Instructions for use
  • Training Webinars: Patients are Getting Better, Faster (Parts 1 and 2)
  • Training Webinar: The Kidney Return Protocol
  • Seminar Video Training: 2017 Symposium Module 4 – Putting It All Together
  • 3.5 PDA points / hours for Continuing Education (NCCAOM, Florida and California)
  • Purchase the Ion Pumping Cord Deluxe Starter Pack here >>

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about the Kidney Return Protocol, using ion pumping cords, or purchasing them! I’d love to chat and get to know you better. You can reach me at +1 208-846-8448, or send me an email at

Don’t forget to read my next post in this series, Case Study: The Kidney Return Protocol!

Until Next Time,


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Dr. Kimberly Thompson, DACM, L.Ac.

Dr. Kimberly Thompson, DACM, L.Ac. is a US licensed acupuncturist in the state of Idaho and certified in the treatment of acupuncture, Oriental medicine and Chinese herbology by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Kimberly wears multiple hats in the acupuncture community. She owns her private clinic, Meridian Family Acupuncture. She has spent the last 10 years working for Miridia Technology as an acupuncture Research Analyst–where she helps plan, develop, and integrate modern diagnostic and treatment tools for the ever-evolving scientific world of acupuncture. Kimberly is a world-renown teacher, blogger, columnist, and mentor in the acupuncture community.