How do Acupuncturists Know Where to Put the Needles?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Acupuncturists rely on a large body of knowledge to decide where to place needles in their patients. This knowledge incorporates the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an extensive assortment of traditional medical practices which has been used in Asia for centuries, along with education which is specific to acupuncture. Since acupuncture is a complex discipline, acupuncturists study for several years to ensure that they will serve their patients safely and effectively. Acupuncture is also a very old medical discipline; the earliest acupuncture text dates back to the third century BCE.

The first step in the acupuncture process is an interview, in which the practitioner will discuss the patient's primary complaint. The interview allows the practitioner to assess the patient's general health, attitude, and nature. Next, the acupuncturist physically inspects the patient, often using the tool of tongue diagnosis to gain valuable clues about the general health of the patient. During the examination the acupuncturist checks the patient's pulse, listens to his or her lungs, and performs other actions which may seem familiar to people who are experienced with Western medicinal treatment.


After the interview and examination, the acupuncturist comes up with a diagnosis. According to the principles of TCM, illness is caused by an imbalance of the body's energy. Acupuncture aims to realign this energy, freeing the flow of qi, or lifeforce, through the patient's body. As this energy is freed, the condition will hopefully resolve itself. Additional tools such as the burning of herbs, or moxibustion, may be used as well.

Acupuncturists rely on a system of meridians, lines of energy which flow through the body. There are 12 major meridians and eight minor ones, and acupuncture needles will be placed at various points in these meridians to free up energy. Each is associated with a particular organ, and each organ is considered responsible for different symptoms which can be treated with acupuncture at specific points. Acupuncturists use charts and established anatomical features to find meridians and acupuncture points on their clients. There are thousands of such points, with several hundred in common use by most acupuncturists.

The angle of a needle when it is inserted is also an important aspect of acupuncture. Once inserted, a needle may be twisted, tapped, or otherwise moved to promote a particular response. An acupuncture treatment is not generally painful, although tingling sensations may be experienced as energy is moved around the body. After a treatment, a patient usually feels energized, although sometimes a bit peculiar.


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Post 4

Since the practice of acupuncture goes back so many centuries to ancient times, I've tried to think of what could possibly be happening inside the body when the needles are inserted. It's been used for so long, there must be something to it.

They talk about the needle stimulating the life force, or qi to flow in a balanced manner through the body. Could the needle somehow stimulate nerves back to the brain centers (e.g. pain centers that in turn flow to muscles or any organ that is experiencing pain)?

Just guessing - I really don't know. But I'd like to find out.

Post 3

@myharley - I know what you mean. It's frustrating when visits to a licensed acupuncturist aren't covered by insurance plans.

I had suffered pain from two car accidents and had tried physical therapy, rest and pain medications and nothing helped much.

So I decided just to try going to an acupuncturist, even though I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket.

When I went to see the acupuncturist, after asking me a lot of questions, she consulted her charts and seemed to know exactly where to place the needles. They are extremely thin needles and it didn't hurt at all. It helped somewhat with the pain and I went back about 5 times. But it just got too expensive, with no insurance coverage.

Post 2

I have suffered with headaches for many years, and get tired of taking medication to control the pain. Many times I have thought about finding a certified acupuncturist who could help me.

If I was able to get relief from my headaches on a long term basis, I wouldn't mind paying for the out of pocket costs. I would want to do my research first and make sure the person I was seeing was well qualified.

I have even read where they have used acupuncture on animals to help with pain. It makes sense when you think about it, because they would have reflex points much the same way that humans do.

Post 1

I have always been fascinated with the concept of acupuncture. One of by bosses had some acupuncture done to help with her carpal tunnel problems. She really had good results from this treatment.

Finding alternative medicine treatments that are effective is always something I look for when I need to treat something. When I was looking to find a good acupuncturist, what I found most frustrating was that most insurance plans won't cover their services.

It didn't seem to matter if they are a licensed acupuncturist or not, I was not able to find anyone in my area where my insurance would help cover the cost.

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