How do we choose which acupuncture points we are going to use?
This is a question that I often field in the clinic, and the short answer is this: location and function.
Location is probably an obvious answer. As you might expect, sometimes when you get an acupuncture treatment to resolve something like knee pain, you might get needles directly at the site of the pain, but it doesn't always work this way.Sometimes we may choose points that do not seem like they would have anything to do with your knee pain (for example, near your elbow) but actually still have a relationship to the area that you would like to have treated. We call this distal needling.
In Chinese medicine, there are 12 primary energetic pathways upon which most of the acupuncture points are located. (There are an additional 8 meridians that travel more internally, and are only accessed by one acupuncture point each, but I'll discuss those more in a different post.)
Each of the 12 pathways (aka meridians) are associated with a specific organ, travel through the torso and extend along either the upper or lower limbs. It is because of these pathways, that we are able to needle points on the arms and legs that allow us to treat conditions or ailments pretty much anywhere in the body.
I'll give a more specific example. Say you come in to have some low back pain treated. We may start by needling some points on the feet. Though it might seem odd to needle the feet, we do this because there are points on the feet that belong to channels that travel directly through the low back area.
Next up, point functions: Each acupuncture point has a specific function, and many have several.
An example, the acupuncture point Pericardium 6 (located about 3 finger widths up from the inside of your wrist, in between the two main tendons that you can see when you make a fist) has the main function of controlling nausea. This is a point that would be useful to press if you are experiencing any kind of motion sickness, morning sickness or nausea due to any other reason.
This point - which being a pericardium point also acts as a protector of the Heart - can be useful for calming the spirit when symptoms manifest such as anxiety, trouble sleeping or heart palpitations.
So the next time you settle in for an acupuncture session and are discussing your most recent health concerns with your practitioner, he or she is quickly assessing a combination of points based on their locations and their functions, to create a treatment that will work to bring your body back into balance and good health.
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