Acupoints Selection

What are Acupoints?

Acupuncture points are called acupoints, lining mainly along 14 regular meridians (十四正经) and also spread to the rest parts of the meridians system. Stimulating these points with needles or moxa can send messages to the body center – five zang organs. In return, the organs adjust the body to re-establish the balance. Acupuncture points are an important part of acupuncture theory.    

acupoints diagram from bayvan clinic Victoria BC

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has two unique characters: holism (整体观) and syndrome differentiation (bian zheng lun zhi辨证论治). Holism explains the harmony in our bodies and between human beings and nature. It helps understand TCM physiology, etiology and pathology. Syndrome differentiation is a way to diagnose a disease and guide its treatment. Acupoints selection must correspond to syndrome patterns and cover all aspects of a syndrome. The syndrome pattern serves as a bridge between point selection and acupuncture treatment.  


Choose Right Acupoints

The primary way to work out an acupoint formula is to follow the guidance of syndrome (zheng, 证), which is the underlying cause of a disease. Syndrome combines four aspects: pathogen, heat or cold, location and excess or deficiency. It reals the rooting cause of a disease. If you want to find a hand that can exactly overlap your left hand, the best one must be your right hand. We need to find out a group of points right fitting into all of the four aspects of a syndrome. Here are five basic formats to guide you in choosing or combining acupuncture points.


1) Local Acupoints Selection

Disorder location is one of the four aspects of the syndrome. Acupoints close to this location are the first few points to be chosen. Needling these points can achieve directive effects on the disorder. Take the wind-cold type of headache as an example. The bladder channel goes from the head down to the foot. Wind-cold pathogen enters the channels, affecting the flow of qi and blood. Choose its acupoint BL 10 (tian zhu) at the back of the head as a focal point. It opens the channel to stop the pain. It also expels pathogens of wind-cold. So this local point can cover two aspects of the syndrome: location and pathogen.  


2) Distal Points Selection

Here are two ways.


a) Along the Same Channel 

For the above headache, choose an acupoint far away on foot, BL 60 (kun lun). It works together with the local acupoint to effectively regulate the bladder channel.


b) From Different Channels

If sore throat is a problem of tai yin lung channel, choose its related channel of yang ming large intestine, and select the acupoint LI 4 (he gu).


– From a different channel but share the same “family” name. 

Like lower back pain is a problem of tai yang bladder channel, besides certain local points, choose a supportive point SI 6 (yang lao) along tai yang small intestine channel. Both are tai yang channel points.

Note: From above, it could be summarized that there are four ways to combine acupoints: local + distal; on the same meridian; on especially related meridians, and meridians in the same family name.


3) Special Acupoints

Many acupuncture points have their special treatment effects, such as Du 17 (da zhui) dispels heat, HT 7 (calm mind); Du 20 (bai hui) raises yang qi; etc.

Note: Besides the above three classic ways of choosing or combining acupoints. There are others used in a special situation as follows:


4) Upper and Lower Combination

For example, to treat vertigo, choose Du 20 (bai hui) at the top of the head and combine it with LV3 (tai chong) at the foot.


5) Opposite Side Combination


For example, to treat the left side of Bell’s palsy, combine acupoints on the left side of the face with those on the right arm or hand.

In summary, acupuncture points are like arrows, an acupuncturist is like an archer, and a syndrome is like a target. The archer must find out the target first and see it clearly, and then fires arrows out. Make a syndrome diagnosis from its four aspects before working out an acupoint formula in one or more formats discussed above.


To give an acupuncture treatment, an acupuncturist must be able to find out syndrome patterns of disease first and then, according to the syndrome, select acupoints.