Acupuncture Points

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Acupuncture Points

Acupuncture points are a major part of any acupuncture treatment. They are the places where acupuncture needles are inserted, or pressure applied during tui na (chinese massage), or heated using moxa. But what the heck are they? Why use those places? Well, let’s talk about that…

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory qi (energy) flows through the body in channels, and the acupuncture points lie on these channels. Most of the meridians are associated with particular organ systems, and most of the points on that channel will relate to the functions of that organ.

Historically, the qi is seen as water-like, flowing down between the hills and gathering in small pools as it flows. Similar theories can be seen in feng shui, and this is why most points are found in the recesses of joints – simulating the meeting of hills – and small depressions on bones – just like small pools of water in the stream.

In a healthy body the qi flows smoothly without interruption. If the qi is blocked (say by mechanical trauma), it causes pain. By stimulating the points the proper flow of qi is restored and the pain recedes.

Acupuncture points have traditional Chinese names, commonly alluding to the function or perhaps location of the point; and also more recently have been labelled according to their position on the meridian, so as to have a universally recognised name. Large Intestine 4 (commonly written LI-4) is also known as He Gu – “Joining of the Valleys” in English – referring to the location in the junction between thumb and forefinger.

But are they real I hear you ask? Or are they just made up by some old sage of yore? Well, new imaging techniques are starting to show that they are different to surrounding tissues. New CT scanning has shown various acupuncture points to have significantly higher concentrations of microvessels (teensy-tiny blood vessels) than non-acupuncture points, and distinct structural differences in around blood vessels.

Another study showed partial oxygen pressure measured on the anterior wrist had significantly higher levels at acupuncture points compared to non-acupuncture points. Here’s an image from the study with an overlay of the associated acupuncture points:

Fascinating stuff!

Acupuncture Points

Acupuncture Points

Image reference:

Minyoung Hong, Sarah S. Park, Yejin Ha, et al., “Heterogeneity of Skin Surface Oxygen Level of Wrist in Relation to Acupuncture Point,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 106762, 7 pages, 2012 doi:10.1155/2012/10a6762.

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