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An acupuncture point is a spot on the body that can be manipulated through acupuncture, acupressure, sonopuncture, or laser acupuncture. The body has hundreds of acupuncture points, each corresponding to a certain tissue, organ, or other part of the body. The notion of the acupuncture point has existed in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since ancient times, and is often criticized by modern medicine and scientific thought, though it continues to have many adherents. Some modern scientific studies have suggested that acupuncture has specific and predictable results on the brain, in line with the claims of TCM.
Acupuncture stimulates an acupuncture point through the insertion and manipulation of a very fine needle. Acupressure, sonopuncture, and laser acupuncture are newer techniques that eliminate the risks of traditional acupuncture as an invasive procedure. Acupressure uses pressure, sonopuncture uses sound waves, and laser acupuncture uses light waves to stimulate an acupuncture point.
An acupuncture point is not necessarily located on or near the structure it is meant to affect. The goal of acupuncture and related treatments is to balance the elements of yin, yang, and qi in the body. Yin and yang necessarily balance and oppose each other, as the former is dark, feminine, receptive, and nurturing, while the latter is light, masculine, dominating, and creative. Qi is life-giving energy.
Most acupuncture points are distributed along meridians, the major paths through which blood, qi, yin, and yang are said to flow. However, many are not; for example, there are many acupuncture points on the outer ear, an area often manipulated in acupressure. Some acupuncture points are used much more frequently than others, as they correspond to areas of the body that people tend to have more health problems with.
TCM physicians are not the only people who make use of acupuncture points. They are also sometimes used in martial arts as part of an attack. Just as manipulating acupuncture points are believed to be therapeutic through improving the flow of qi, some theorize that they also may be used to interrupt the flow of energy to cause blackout or injury.
According to some martial arts techniques, striking a certain acupuncture point can cause intense pain, a broken bone, or an involuntary muscular contraction. Similar techniques are said to cause blackout through impeding blood flow, or by shaking the brain. Whether using acupuncture points to heal or to harm, a great deal of knowledge and skill is required. Manipulating the wrong acupuncture point, or the right one in the wrong manner, could possibly have dire consequences.