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Acupuncture Points

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Foundations of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture Points

Acupuncture is a method of Oriental Medicine treatment that inserts needles into acupuncture points to alter our physiological functioning. There are hundreds of acupuncture points that influence the flow of energy, or Qi, in the body. Most of the classical acupuncture points exist along meridians that channel the energy up and down the surface of the body and to deeper levels where they connect with the internal organs and other meridians.



What are Acupuncture Points?

Scientists have conducted studies and determined that acupuncture points are areas of low impedance on the surface of the skin, meaning that these spots are able to conduct electricity more easily than other surrounding areas. This discovery has led some to believe that Qi is a form of bioelectricity of the body, and that meridians are pathways of bioelectric circuits. Acupuncture points tend to be located in depressions and grooves between muscles and other tissues, which allow the Qi of a meridian to be easily accessed. While acupuncture charts and location descriptions provide a guide, palpation is commonly used to find the exact location of acupuncture points on each individual. When acupuncture points are needled, a propagation sensation is often felt by the patient along the pathway of the acupuncture point’s meridian.

The Nei Jing, or Inner Classic, described 160 acupuncture points on the body. Additional acupuncture points were recorded in later texts to include the major 365 acupuncture points in modern use. The classical texts gave general descriptions of the location of acupuncture points, while today we have detailed anatomical charts of their locations. However, because of the dynamic nature of the body and the meridians, the acupuncture points used in a treatment are the points which are most responsive at the time of treatment. A well-trained acupuncturist will palpate the body to find the exact location of each acupuncture point during the treatment, finding areas of depression, tenderness, or other surface changes.

Recently, there is an international movement to standardize the location of all major acupuncture points on the body so that clinical trials and other research can be conducted more efficiently. Each of the acupuncture points has a unique Chinese name which indicates some feature of that point, such as a function or the location of the acupuncture point. In the Western world, we have secondary names for each acupuncture point corresponding to their sequence along their associated meridian. For example, the first acupuncture point of the Lung meridian is named Zhong Fu, but we also refer to it numerically as Lung 1.

Categories of Acupuncture Points

The most important acupuncture points of the Regular meridians are divided into various categories to create the systems of point selection. It is common to find these important acupuncture points located on the limbs of the body, mainly from the elbows to the fingers and the knees to the toes. It is said that in distal areas of the limbs, the Qi is most accessible and has the greatest influence on the body.

The first major category of acupuncture points is the Shu-Transporting points. The Shu-Transporting points are five non-sequential acupuncture points starting at the tips of the fingers and toes on each meridian. Each of these acupuncture points has a special function identified by these labels: Jing-Well, Ying-Spring, Shu-Stream, Jing-River, and He-Sea. These five acupuncture points on each Regular meridian are also associated with the five elements of Oriental Medicine: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water (see the table below). The Jing-Well points are located at the very ends of the fingers and toes; they are used for channel excess conditions and mental illness. The Ying-Spring points are the 2nd points from the ends of the fingers or toes; these acupuncture points are used to treat fevers and other excessive heat conditions. The Shu-Stream points are the third points from the ends of the fingers and toes; they are used for painful obstruction along their meridian and to strengthen their corresponding organ on Yin meridians. The Jing-River points are usually on the forearm or lower leg; these acupuncture points treat cough and voice changes. Finally, the He-Sea points are located around the elbow and knee; they treat vomiting, diarrhea, and Yang organ disease.


Yin Organs Well Spring Stream River Sea Element
Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Greater Yin Lung (Lu) 11 10 9 8 5 Metal
Spleen (Sp) 1 2 3 5 9 Earth
Lesser Yin Heart (Ht) 9 8 7 4 3 Fire
Kidney (Kd) 1 2 3 7 10 Water
Absolute Yin Pericardium (Pc) 9 8 7 5 3 Fire
Liver (Liv) 1 2 3 4 8 Wood



Yang Organs Well Spring Stream River Sea Element
Metal Water Wood Fire Earth
Bright Yang Large Intestine (LI) 1 2 3 5 11 Metal
Stomach (St) 45 44 43 41 36 Earth
Greater Yang Small Intestine (SI) 1 2 3 5 8 Fire
Urinary Bladder (UB) 67 66 65 60 40 Water
Lesser Yang Triple Heater (TH) 1 2 3 6 10 Fire
Gall Bladder (GB) 44 43 41 38 34 Wood


Yuan-Source points are acupuncture points on the meridian where the original Qi of the body comes to the surface. This is the third acupuncture point from the extremity on the channel for Yin meridians (same as the Shu-Stream points mentioned above), and mainly used to strengthen the Yin organ. It is commonly the fourth acupuncture point from the extremity on a Yang Meridian, where the point works to expel disease from the Yang organ.

Xi-Cleft points are acupuncture points on the meridian, usually the midway along a limb, where the Qi and Blood plunge deeper into the body. These acupuncture points are mostly indicated for acute painful conditions of a meridian or organ.

Luo-Connecting points are acupuncture points on the meridian where a branch splits from the meridian to connect with its Yin-Yang paired meridian. For example, at Lung 7 on the wrist the Lung meridian branches to connect with the Large Intestine meridian. Luo-Connecting points can be used to treat disease that involves both of the paired organs or meridians.

Back-Shu and Front-Mu points are pairs of acupuncture points on the back and chest of the body that correspond to each internal organ. For Yin organs, the Back-Shu point tonifies and the Front-Mu point regulates the energy of the organ. For Yang organs, the Front-Mu point sedates and the Back-Shu point regulates the energy of the organ.


Yuan-Source 9 4 42 3 7 4 64 3 7 4 40 3    
Xi-Cleft 6 7 34 8 6 6 63 5 4 7 36 6    
Luo-Connecting 7 6 40 4 5 7 58 4 6 5 37 5 15 1
Front-Mu Lu1 St25 Rn12 Liv13 Rn14 Rn4 Rn3 GB25 Rn17 Rn5 GB24 Liv14    
Back-Shu UB13 UB25 UB21 UB20 UB15 UB27 UB28 UB23 UB14 UB22 UB19 UB18    


Hui-Meeting points are acupuncture points on the body where the energy of specific tissues can be influenced. These tissues include: Yin organs, Yang organs, Qi, Blood, Tendons, Marrow, Bones, and Vessels. For instance if there is a tendon problem in a patient, needling Gall Bladder 34 will help increase the strength of the tendons in the body.


Yin Organs Yang Organs Qi Blood Tendons Marrow Bones Vessels
Liv13 Rn12 Rn17 UB17 GB34 GB39 UB11 Lu9


Crossing points are acupuncture points on the body where more than one meridian crosses. These acupuncture points are especially useful to alter the Qi flow in more than one meridian by using only a single acupuncture point. Unfortunately, this chart is much too large to list here; however, this information is readily available in acupuncture texts.

Acupuncture Charts

In our discussion so far, we have detailed several major categories of points. However, it is difficult to understand the system of acupuncture without the use of an Acupuncture Chart. An Acupuncture Chart is a diagram of the human body with the acupuncture points and the pathways of the meridians superimposed on the skin. Most of these charts generally show only the external pathways of the 14 major meridians, which include the 12 Primary Meridians and two of the Extraordinary Meridians. In acupuncture textbooks, individual diagrams of a single meridian are able to more clearly show each Regular meridian and its associated Divergent meridian, Luo-Connecting meridian, Sinew and Cutaneous meridians, also including the internal pathways of these meridians. Many different versions of acupuncture charts have been created over the last 2000 years; unfortunately, many of the older versions have been lost.

Point Selection Methods

The methods of selecting acupuncture points for treatment ranges from simple to complex. The most basic approach is to needle local acupuncture points on an area that shows signs of being reactive or tender; these are often called Ashi (That’s It!) acupuncture points. The next level would include selecting points based upon their effect on their connected meridian and organ; these acupuncture points are often distal to their affected area. For example, you can needle the Yuan-Source point of the Lung meridian to tonify the Lung organ for cases of cough, asthma, or other respiratory disorders. A more advanced level includes the use of therapeutic point combinations to strengthen the effect of the treatment. This would include the use of the Yuan-Source point of a meridian and the Luo-Connecting point of its Yin-Yang paired meridian, such as Liver 3 and Gall Bladder 37; this acupuncture point combination is useful for vision degradation.

A more complex method of acupuncture point selection is based on the 5 Element Theory. Pulse diagnosis is used to detect whether the energy of a meridian is in excess or deficiency, Based upon a passage in the NanJing, the Classic of Difficulties, chapter 69, in cases of deficiency tonify the mother; and in cases of excess sedate the son. We need to refer back to the Shu-Transporting Charts above. From these charts, we can identify that each meridian is associated with one of the five elements and each of the Shu-Transporting Points are associated with one of the five elements. An understanding of the Generation cycle of the 5 elements tells us that Earth generates Metal, which generates Water, which generates Wood, which generates Fire, which generates Earth. The cycle repeats to maintain balance and control. As an example, deficiency of the Lung meridian (Metal) would be treated by selecting points on the Lung meridian that generate Metal. Since Earth generates Metal, we needle Lung 9, the Earth point on the Metal Channel. To strengthen our treatment, we also choose to needle the Earth point on the Earth channel, which is Spleen 3. In a case of excess of the Gall Bladder channel (Wood), we would use the son element (Fire). So we needle Gall Bladder 38, the Fire point on the Wood meridian. To assist, we needle Small Intestine 5, the Fire point on the Fire meridian. Since there are two Fire meridians, we also could have chosen Triple Heater 6 as our supporting point.

Many theories and methods of acupuncture point selection have been developed over time, and what we have discussed here are only the most basic methods. This is why the study of classical acupuncture theory is a life long endeavor with clinical experience enhancing the skills of an acupuncturist.

Extra Points

There are hundreds of acupuncture points on meridians that have unique functions and local indications that are used in every treatment. In addition, there are extra points that are not found on the 14 major meridians; these include ear acupuncture points, Korean Hand Therapy points, Scalp acupuncture points, and Master Tung points, to name just a few. In modern times, newer styles of acupuncture have emerged that integrate Western medical knowledge. These systems of acupuncture incorporate the use of nerve motor points, trigger points, and other recent discoveries to enhance the effects and options in acupuncture treatment. With the ability to palpate the body and discovery even more active areas, the real number of acupuncture points is endless; each treatment is truly tailored to meet each individual’s unique condition.


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