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Acupuncture Points

There are 361 acupuncture points located along the fourteen regular meridians. These acupuncture points can have a positive effect on an individual’s health or medical condition through stimulation with acupuncture needles. These acupoints serve as a way of treating a broad range of medical disorders, common ailments and muscular-skeletal conditions. The choice of acupoints to be selected for treatment is decided using various methods. One method relies on the tenderness of  the acupoints. This method will quickly let the practitioner know what acupoints are in need of treatment. Another method of acupoint selection draws on the five element principles of TCM. Further study is required to understand this in more detail. For a more detailed diagnosis for acupoint selection, a full TCM diagnosis can also be taken.

Another more Western approach to selecting acupuncture points for treatment is known as symptomatic acupoint selection. Here, acupuncture points are selected according to what symptoms a patient has. All acupoints are known to have certain indications or symptoms for which they are known to be helpful for and are proven to have a positive effect upon generally. This method of acupuncture point selection is not as accurate as the more traditional method that utilises traditional Chinese medical diagnostic principles, but it does offer an alternative for those less experienced in TCM diagnosis with often surprisingly positive results. Acupuncture body points are categorised into various groups according to their function.


An ancient Chinese image illustrating acupoints

‘Ah Shi’ Points

‘Ah shi’ acupoints are tender spots that are often felt as nodules or slight swellings. ‘Ah shi’ actually translates to “ah yes”. An ‘ah shi’ point is a point that is sore or tender and sensitive to touch or pressure. When pressed, the patient may respond by saying ‘ah yes’, hence the name. These acupuncture points can occur almost anywhere in the muscles, facia and ligaments and are often felt at the same location as meridian acupressure points but not always.

The cause of ah shi points can be a result of an injury, continued tension or overwork to an area. This can cause local congestion of qi (chi) and blood which usually results in sore, tender spots almost anywhere on the body. These tender spots can also develop into palpable nodules which many massage therapists are well aware of.

‘Trigger’ Points

Trigger points are usually found in muscles. They are similar to ah shi points, as they too can be tender or painful when pressed. The main difference between trigger points and ah shi points is that when applying acupressure or acupuncture to a trigger point, any discomfort, pain or other sensation such as tingling or mild numbness for example, is referred to an area that is remote (not local) to the spot that is pressed. Therefore, the main difference between a trigger point and an ah shi point, is that ah shi points, if sore or tender, do not refer any sensation or discomfort away from the area being pressed. Any sensation from the stimulation of an ah shi point therefore remains close to that point being pressed or needled. This is the general rule of thumb however; as all acupuncture body points and areas can in fact be both ah shi points as well as trigger points, as the human body and various medical conditions have individual tendencies that are not set in stone!  

All acupuncture points that are tender, whether they are trigger points, ah shi points or regular acupoints as located on one or more of the fourteen regular meridians are potentially in need of treatment. Finding these tender points can be extremely helpful as it not only identifies the acupoints in need of treatment, but also indicates to you their exact location.  As already mentioned, ah shi and trigger points can be found in the same location as the regular meridian acupoints, but also in other areas such as muscle, fascia and ligament that are not directly located on regular meridians.

‘Extra’ Acupoints

There are many ‘Extra’ acupuncture points that are not situated along any of the fourteen regular meridians. They are known to have specific functions and therapeutic effects for certain conditions or symptoms. They are often used as a supplementary measure alongside the more commonly selected meridian acupuncture body points.


Generally speaking, acupuncture points fall into various categories or ‘classifications’ depending on their functions and qualities. Below is a list that will give you a good supply of acupoints for a wide range of symptoms, common ailments, and muscular-skeletal conditions. A lot can be achieved with these acupoints alone from both a Western and a Chinese medical perspective. In fact, the following acupuncture points are probably the most commonly used acupoints by acupuncturists generally.

Acupuncture Point Classifications

Front-Mu points

Back-Shu Points

Primary-Source Points

Influential Points

Command Points

Mother-Son Points

‘Front-Mu’ Acupuncture Points

The following acupuncture points are located on the chest and abdomen directly above their connecting organ where the Qi of that organ gathers. Any tenderness in these points indicates a disharmony of that point’s relative internal organ. For this reason, they are also known as ‘alarm points’ and often used for diagnosis. They are often selected for treatment of their connecting internal organ and with good reason, as they often have an almost immediate, positive effect on their pertaining internal organ. When used in combination with the back-shu points, the positive effect can be even greater. 

‘Back-Shu’ Acupuncture Points

These acupuncture body points are located on the back and transport Qi to their relative organ. Like the front-mu points, they are often tender or sore when pressed. Again, this serves as a good indicator of what organs are in disharmony and what points need to be treated. It also serves as a method of locating the points correctly.       

Like the front-mu points, the back-shu points have a very influential effect on the internal organs which accounts for their regular selection in treatment. These acupuncture points are very beneficial for tension in the back. The lower two thirds of these acu-points are especially helpful for lower back ache and muscle tension in this area. Applying acupressure to these points can be very helpful here.

The back-shu and the front-mu acupuncture body points may be used in combination or independently. Selecting both types of acupoints will probably strengthen the treatment. For example, selecting Ren-12 on the abdomen and Bl-21 on the back should have a positive effect on disorders of the Stomach such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea for example. The problem is, the abdomen and back can’t be treated at the same time as acu-points selected on and around the abdominal area have to be treated with the patient lying on their back, so a longer appointment may be required. Alternatively, St-36 for example may be used in conjunction with Ren-12 so only the front of the body is treated. It all depends on what other points need to be selected for the patient’s individual needs to determine whether the front and back of the patient are to be treated in one treatment session.

‘Yuan-Primary’ Points

The following acupuncture points are located on or near the wrists and ankles. They are important points for the treatment of chronic conditions of their relative organ. They have a powerful tonifying effect on the energy of their pertaining organ and therefore are of particular importance in deficiency conditions.

‘Influential’ Points

These acupuncture points have an influence on specific aspects of the body’s physiology. Therefore, these acu-points are often selected as a general supplementary measure for conditions that are related to these individual physiological characteristics.

‘Command’ Points

The following acupoints are very useful as they relate to certain areas of the anatomy. They can be used as supplementary acupoints for a broad range of applications in the treatment of disorders of their related anatomical area. They can be used whether the disorder is of a hot or cold nature, excess or deficiency, and whether the condition is chronic or acute.

‘Mother-Son’ Points

This method of selecting points draws upon the five element principles of TCM. Each element has an element preceding and following itself and therefore each element has a reinforcing and a reducing point. For example, if a patient shows signs of Lung deficiency, such as a weak or chronic cough, a weak voice, cough or asthma on exertion, spontaneous sweating and a weak pulse, the Lungs can be strengthened using the ‘Mother point’ of the Lung meridian which is Lu-9. This point also happens to be the source point for the lung which accounts for it’s common selection in treatment. 

If on the other hand, the Lungs are in a state of excess, as when an external influence such as wind-cold has invaded the Lungs, with such signs as an acute cough, a stuffy nose, a coarse voice, fullness in the chest and a floating slippery pulse, the reducing ‘son point’ of the Lungs would be selected which is Lu-5.   


Meridian        (Organ)

Mother Point   (Reinforcing)

Son Point         (Reducing)




    Large intestine












    Small intestine






















Commonly Used Acupuncture Points

These acupoints are generally very commonly used. Combined, they offer treatment for a wide range of different indications. They are powerful acupuncture points that often have a good effect on a patient’s condition even when the diagnosis is not clear.

Ki-3, Sp-6, P-6, Li-4-11, Lu-5-7-9, St-25-36-40, Liv-3, Gb-30-34-40, Ht-7-9, Sj-5, Ren-3-4-6-12-17, Du-4-14-16-20, Bl-13-15-17-18-20- and Bl-23 (Back Shu points).


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