My Pain is Here! Why'd You Needle There?
by Brian Benjamin Carter
I went for my first acupuncture visit and he put needles in my
ankles and my inner arm near my elbows. My pain is in my lower
back and my neck. Is this normal? Will it be the same area every
time or will it be different areas each time I go? Thanks for
any help you can share!!!
Yes, that's normal. You could have asked him about it during
the treatment. His explanation would have been something like-
- I am using points that are on meridians/channels that flow
through the area of your pain.
- I am using (distal) points that affect those areas from a
Local and Distal Acupoints
In acupuncture, we often use a combination of local (at the site
of pain) and distal (distant from the site of pain) points. Sometimes
we use only local or only distal. It depends on the presentation,
the acupuncurist's style, and their diagnosis and treatment strategy.
One of the cool things about acupuncture is that it is often
possible to treat someone entirely on there forearms, hands, lower
legs, and feet - regardless of the problem!
Your Brain is the Computer, Acupoints are the Keys
It only takes a little imagination - plus some MRI research -
to come up with the following analogy: I think of the brain as
the computer, and the acupuncture points as keys on a keyboard.
By hitting the right keys, you tell the computer what to do. The
brain can reconfigure the body based on the input you give it
Distal Treatment is Part of the Medicine
Many Medical Acupuncturists (MD's, etc. who attempt to practice
acu with little or no training) only feel comfortable with local
points. This is because they don't understand or accept the theories
of chinese medicine that have made acupuncture effect for thousands
of years. Some people call this 'medipuncture,' instead of acupuncture.
Licensed Acupunturists (LAc, RAc), on the other hand, usually
study for 3-4 years in school and receive a Master's degree in
a course of study mostly on Oriental Medicine. They also take
around 492 hours of western medicine as well. Medical Acupuncturists
often take only 300 hours of acupuncture (sometimes by watching
videos!) while Licensed Acupuncturists take 1130 hours or more
of acupuncture theory and get 909 hours of clinical practice under
Diagnosis First, Treatment Second
So all that training makes for a bunch of complex detail in diagnosing
problems- what kind of pain it is, where, how long it's been there,
what it feels like, what makes it better or worse, etc. all go
into the diagnosis. Once they know the character of the pain,
they can choose points locally and distally to effect it.
There are some very different ways to practice acupuncture:
- Chinese style may make use of the cleft, stream or
river points, tendinomuscular meridians...
- Taiwanese Master Dong/Tong style using imaging methods
to treat, for example, the knee with the opposite elbow.
- Scalp acupuncture. There are at least 3 systems. They're
often used for stroke rehabilitation.
- Japanese style is shallower, uses fewer needles, and
might not even keep the needles in for very long. They also
use a lot of moxa (burning mugwort to heat up the acupuncture
- Medical Acupuncturists sometimes use only what recent
research shows. But many of their studies are flawed due to
bad study designs because of their ignorance of chinese medical
theory. So their ability to treat is limited. (Some of them,
however, devote their entire practice to acupuncture and are
- Sports Medicine acupuncturists may go deep into the
nearby muscle to "reset" its natural resting tone.
This is also refered to as motor-point acupuncture.
- Plus, you can combine several of the above styles into one
Find a licensed acupuncturist here: "Resources
for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"
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