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A branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that treats many conditions including diseases, drug or alcohol addiction, and sinus problems by stimulation of acupuncture needles to directly manipulate a network along 12 major pathways or energetic meridians, connecting specific internal organs with energetic points on the network. Acupuncture regulates, or disperses Ki (also referred to as Chee, Chi, Ki, Qi, and Qui), the vital life energy that animates all living organisms, and results in a correcting and rebalancing Ki to relieve pain and restore health. [1]


History of acupuncture

Acupuncture was practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. It is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine.[2] Since acupuncture is a component of TCM, it is not possible to understand the history of acupuncture alone without TCM. Shen Nung, Huang Di and Fu Hsi are the emperors, who are considered to have been the originators of Chinese medicine. Huang Di Nei Jing is considered as classical book on TCM. Huang Di Nei Jing means 'The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine'. The emperor Huang Di is believed to have lived about 2697-2596 B.C.[3] Till 19th century the TCM was the main mode of treatment in China. During the First Opium War, China came into contact with western medicine. After the war the traditional medicine lost its importance, because of its banning by the president Chiang Kai-Shek. After his government lost the power, the first National Hygiene Conference (1950) organised during Mao Zedong's period deviced new set of medical principles, which included the TCM.

TCM gained its respect in the west after the visit of the President Nixon to China (1972), followed by an article by the famous reporter James Reston, in the New York Times about this oriental healing art. Though it gain great degree of respects in the western world, it also faced lot of criticism and disbelief among its opponents, due to the lack of scientific explanation.

Concept of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is mainly based on Yin and Yang theory. Based on this the diagnosis is made in the acupuncture. These are the larger clinical features within with the others are subsumed. Exterior, hot and excessive symptoms are Yang. Interior, cold and deficient symptoms are Yin. The classic Yang symptoms correspond to excessive and hot conditions, while classic Yin symptoms correspond to deficient and cold conditions. However, all the diseases include both Yin and Yang imbalances in their etiology.

Basic therapeutic methods in traditional Chinese medicine

There are four basic methods in traditional Chinese medicine viz.

  1. Herbal therapy
  2. Moxibustion: Heating or burning certain areas of body with powdered leaves of the moxa plant (Artemesia vulgaris)
  3. Acupuncture
  4. Surgery: It was used only as a last resort, as according to the Confucian doctrine the human body was considered to be sacred. However it is used extensively in treating war injuries and in a more traditional procedure, to produce eunuchs for the Imperial Court.

Different components of TCM originated from different geographical locations of China. Moxibation developed mainly from the North of China and materia medica and pharmacy were from West. Where as gymnastics, remedial exercises and massage were possibly from Centre. But acupuncture originated from the Eastern part of China, while its eloboration in the form of needles, came from the South.

Traditional methods of diagnosis

  1. Looking: Examination of all the senses with special reference to colors and emotions.
  2. Listening: Examination of the heartbeat, breathing and voice.
  3. Asking: Investigation into the history of the disorder and other factors, such as sleep, dreams and bowel habits.
  4. Palpating: Palpation of the abodomen, thorax and the acupuncture channels.
  5. Pulse diagnosis: Taking the pulses.
  6. Examining the ears: Examination of the ears in rescpect to any obstruction, discharge, etc.
  7. Tongue diagnosis: Examination of tongue in respect to color, coating, etc.

However today there are many new combined methods that helps to breakdown the barriers between the traditional and modern medicine. One such example is the development of acupuncture anaesthesia.

Systems of channels

Initially it was discovered that there are certain points in the body, which if massaged, punctured, heated or burned, relieve pain or has beneficial effect on certain disorders. Over a period many such points were discovered. Later it was found that by the stimulation of widely separated points it was possible to influence the functioning of a specific internal organ. Then it was systematically arranged on the basis of pertaining organ, over it was perceived they has an influence. The series of points which had an effect of a particular organ were connected to form a channel. There are Superficial Channels, consisting twelve regular channels, called the Twelve Paired Channels, eight extra channels, called Eight Extreordinary Channels and Fifteen Collaterals.

Scientificity of acupuncture

There are many theories to explain the many facets of acupuncture but no integrated theory is as yet available to cover all its manifold aspects. Serious research has been taken into acupuncture only after the cultural revolution, which will need some time to explain this complex neuro-physiological phenomena. This lack of explanation does not make it any less in its curability within its scope. Because many procedures that is being followed in the day-to-day medical practice like physiotherapy, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy do not have a strong scientific explanation, but still they are successfully used in giving the solace to the patients.

A few commonly used acupuncture points

In ancient times, the number of acupuncture points was established to be the same as the number of days in the year: 365. These points were mapped to 14 major meridian lines, one meridian for each of the 12 inner organs, one meridian along the spine (called the governing vessel), and another along the midline of the abdomen (called the conception vessel). More recently, the number of points identified by acupuncturists has exploded. There are extra meridians (some of them outlined in ancient times, others modern) with their own sets of points, there are special points (off meridians), and there are complete mappings of body structures and functions by points along the outer ears, on the nose, in the scalp, on the hands, on the feet, and at the wrists and ankles. Despite the growing number of treatment zones, most acupuncturists still utilize the traditionally-identified points on the 14 main meridians. On each meridian there are a small number of points used repeatedly, because of their versatility, for a wide variety of patients and diseases. One such point on each major meridian is mentioned below, sometimes with a second point also briefly described, for a total of 21. It is important to recognize that although a list of disorders and diseases treated by each point can be given, sometimes the points are selected entirely or primarily on the basis of the Chinese theory of balancing the flow in the meridians, so that the point might be used for other kinds of disorders, aside from those listed, because of its usefulness in this balancing process. For points not on the central line of the body, each point has a left and right side reflected location (the point is counted only once for enumeration purposes). For each point in this presentation, the name of the meridian, the number of the point, the number of standard points on the meridian, its designation by one of the number-based classification systems (two letters and the point number), and the Chinese name are given. [4]

Large Intestine Meridian, point #4 of 20: LI4, Hegu

This point is located on the back side of the hand between the thumb and first finger. The dominant uses are to relieve pain and to treat constipation or other bowel disorders. However, this point is also utilized in the treatment of inflammatory and feverish diseases which have symptoms in the throat and head, because the large intestine meridian runs from the hand to the face. Another key point on this meridian is LI11 (Quchi), located at the elbow. It is used for many upper body disorders, such as sore throat, eye pain, lymphatic swellings, rashes, and difficulty moving the arms, and for intestinal disorders, such as diarrhea and intestinal cramping.

Lung Meridian, point #7 of 11: LU7, Lieque

This point is located above the wrist on the inside of the arm. It is used to treat several disorders of the upper body, including headache, neck stiffness, cough, asthma, sore throat, facial paralysis, and wrist problems.

Stomach Meridian, point #36 of 45: ST36, Zusanli

This point is located on the front of the leg, just below the knee. It is helpful for digestive disorders, including nausea, vomiting, gastralgia, and abdominal distention, and also for general weakness. Recently, numerous clinical trials have been conducted with treatment of this point alone, demonstrating positive effects in treating anemia, immune deficiency, fatigue, and numerous diseases.

Spleen Meridian, point #6 of 21: SP6, Sanyinjiao

This point is located on the inner side of the leg just above the ankle. Although it is on the spleen meridian, which generally influences the digestive system, this point is also valuable for treating hormonal disorders (irregular menstruation, impotence) and immune disorders. Another key point on this meridian is SP9 (Yinlingquan), located just below the knee. It is used in the treatment of urinary diseases, especially with fluid retention, abdominal and back pain, and female reproductive system disorders.

Gallbladder Meridian, point #20 of 44: GB20, Fengchi

This point is located at the base of the skull where it joins the neck in back. It used in the treatment of acute disorders, such as common cold, influenza, headache, neck pain, and fever. In addition, it lowers blood pressure and relaxes tension in the area of the eyes. Another key point on this meridian is GB34 (Yanglingquan), located on the outer side of the knee, and used for treating a wide range of injuries and disorders of the muscles and tendons.

Liver Meridian, point #3 of 14: LV3, Taichong

The point is located on the top of the foot, between the first and second toes. It is used to balance emotional energy, to regulate menstruation, to reduce tension and pain in the chest, treat eye disorders, alleviate headaches, and reduce high blood pressure. The adjacent point in the meridian, LV2 (Xingjian), at the webbing between the toes, is also considered quite important and is frequently needled along with LV3; it has similar uses, but is also incorporated into the treatment of lower abdominal disorders, such as urinary problems.

Pericardium Meridian, point #6 of 9: PC6, Neiguan

This point is located on the inner arm, just above the wrist. Like other points on this meridian, it is useful for cardiac disorders, such as heart palpitation and angina pectoris. It is also useful for nausea, vomiting, spasms, and convulsions.

Heart Meridian, point #7 of 9: HT7, Shenmen

This point is located on the outer side of the wrist. It is used in the treatment of a variety of mental disorders, such as absent mindedness, insomnia, disturbing dreams, hysteria, depression, agitation, and mental illness. It is also used in the treatment of heart disease and fatigue.

Urinary Bladder Meridian, point #40 of 67: BL40, Weizhong

This point is located at the back of the knee. It is utilized in the treatment of back pain, hip impairment, muscular atrophy, leg pain and immobility, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and a host of other symptoms. Another important point on the bladder meridian is BL23 (Shenshu), in the lumbar area (hip level) near the spine; it is used in treatment of a wide range of disorders, including urinary problems, impotence, menstrual disorders, low back pain, knee weakness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, edema, asthma, and diarrhea. A large section of the bladder meridian is of importance because, as it flows along either side of the spine (in two parallel lines on each side), it associates with the internal organs in the vicinity.

Kidney Meridian, point #3 of 27: KI3, Taixi

This point is located just behind the inner ankle. It is used for disorders in several areas of the body, including sore throat and toothache, deafness and tinnitus, dizziness, asthma, thirst, insomnia, impotence, frequency urination, pain in the lower back, and menstrual irregularities.

Triple Burner Meridian, point #5 of 23: TB5, Waiguan

The triple burner is considered to be a special type of organ system that spans the entire torso. This point on the meridian is located on the outer side of the arm, above the wrist. It is mainly used in treatment of disorders along the pathway of this meridian, that is, of the fingers, hand, arms, neck, ears, cheek, and top of the head.

Small Intestine Meridian, point #3 of 19: SI3, Houxi

This point is located on the side of the hand, below the little finger. It is used for treating mental disorders, stiffness and pain in the neck, chest, and lumbar region, seizures, night sweats, and fevers.

Governing Vessel, point #20 of 28: GV20, Baihui

This point is located at the top of the head. It is traditionally applied in the treatment of various mental disorders, and for problems that occur in the head: headache, vertigo, ringing in the ears, nasal obstruction, difficulty with speech, etc. It is also used to treat prolapse, such as that of the rectum and uterus. Another key point on this meridian is GV14 (Dazhui), located just below the seventh cervical vertebrae (shoulder level); it is used for treating neck and upper back problems, feverish diseases, convulsions, cough, asthma, and common cold.

Conception Vessel, point #4 of 24: CV4, Guanyuan

This point is located a little below the navel. It is used for all types of lower abdominal disorders, including urination problems, hernia, menstrual disorders, gynecological infections, postpartum bleeding, diarrhea, rectal prolapse, etc. Another important point on this vessel is CV6 (Qihai), half way between CV4 and the navel. The applications are similar, but it is especially used in cases of accompanying fatigue.

Examples of Combining These Points to Produce an Effective Treatment

In the book Modern Clinic Necessities for Acupuncture and Moxibustion (by Zhang Ren and Dong Zhi Lin), several treatment strategies are outlined. For menopausal syndrome, the main points recommended are GV20 and GV14, CV4, BL23, HT7, SP6 and ST36; secondary points include PC6, LV3, and KI3. For bedwetting at night among young children, recommended points include CV4, BL23 and SP6; secondary points include LU7, KI3, CV6, and ST36. For hayfever, recommended points include GB20, LI4, and ST36; secondary points include GV14, LU7, LI11, and SP6. In her book Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist, Miriam Lee describes a combination of points that have wide application: ST36, SP6, LI4, LI11, and LU7. This set of points, with slight adjustments (e.g., leaving out one or two, perhaps adding or substituting one or two) is shown to be helpful for the majority of common complaints seen in the Western acupuncture clinic. A popular treatment for injury and stress is to needle the “four gates,” the right and left side points LV3 (feet) and LI4 (hands), which opens circulation throughout the meridians.


  1. Glossary of Natural Healthcare Terms
  2. About Acupuncture
  3. A. Jayasuriya, Clinical Acupuncture
  4. A few commonly used acupuncture points


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