For many people, acupuncture can seem a bit mysterious. You may think your practitioner is needling random places on your body, and being on the receiving end may leave you wondering why. Why did they choose this place and not that? Why did they do these points last session, but different ones today? How does your acupuncturist actually choose to needle the points they use?
The answer is a little complicated. While the physiological changes and clinical effectiveness of acupuncture is evidence based, the way your practitioner arrives at a combination of points can be based on both art and science. You see, acupuncture points act like your body’s on and off ramps to the energetic pathways and deeper organs. By needling certain points, your acupuncturist can have an effect on the local area, nearby pathways and deeper body systems. How they arrive at the points to use is based on a number of considerations, including:
The point’s location. If you’re having localized symptoms, close by acupuncture points may be used to reduce pain, reduce inflammation, release a tight muscle or treat an organ directly below the point. Often, when local points are used, your practitioner may choose to needle points further away on your body to create a balanced treatment.
The pathway(s) involved. Energetic pathways, called meridians, run throughout your body. Needling one point on a pathway can affect areas further up or down the pathway. Your practitioner may treat pain conditions by needling points further away from the pain, but on the same pathway. In addition, many pathways penetrate deeply and connect with your internal organs, which means that deep conditions can be treated through needling points on the surface of your body.
The actions or functions of each point. Different points have different effects on your body, which means they have different indications for use. Your practitioner will take into consideration your specific diagnosis and choose points with the appropriate actions.
Point combinations. Often, acupuncture points work in tandem with others, in which two or more points may be combined for their ability to enhance a treatment.
Specific point prescriptions. In some instances, specific conditions or symptoms are treated with a commonly accepted acupuncture point prescription. However, even when using a common point prescription, your practitioner would add points or modify the treatment based on your specific needs.
The style of acupuncture your practitioner uses. There are a number of different styles of acupuncture, and the kind your acupuncturist practices will also determine what points they use. For example, auricular acupuncture involves using points in your ear, scalp acupuncture is often used for neurological issues and five-phase acupuncture primarily involves the use of points on or below your elbows and knees.
Your acupuncturist’s preference. Acupuncture practitioners tend to choose points that they find are the most effective for their patients. You could say that they develop a relationship with certain points, and may choose them more frequently than other points that may have similar properties. Because clarity and intention is an important aspect of each acupuncture treatment, this relationship between practitioner and the points they use works to boost the effectiveness of each session.
While it may seem that your acupuncturist is randomly needling points on your body, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, they’re very focused on choosing the right point prescription for you based on the consideration of a number of complicated factors. If you’d like to know more about acupuncture or how it could help your specific health challenge, please contact our clinic.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.