Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

First Published February 1, 2003

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-

  1. I am using points that are on meridians/channels that flow through the area of your pain.
  2. I am using (distal) points that affect those areas from a distance.

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 with acupuncture.

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 supervisors.

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.

Acupuncture Styles

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 points).
  • 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 quite good.)
  • 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 treatment!

Find a licensed acupuncturist here: "Resources for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"

Hey! Did you like this article?


  • Then sign up for Being Well, our free monthly e-zine to stay current on the latest Pulse articles. Let's be honest: You might not remember to come back! Being Well is your helpful and informative reminder.
    Subscription is free and your email is private (never sold, never shared, spam is evil). If you change your mind, you can unsubscribe anytime. But you won't - you'll love every issue, right? You'll keep checking your email for the next one, right? (The right answers are yes and yes)
    >> Subscribe by sending a blank email (beingwellnewsletter-subscribe@topica.com).
    >> Or get more info first.


  • Browse the Pulse website for more information on Alternative Health. We cover loads of conditions and diseases, chinese medical therapies, acupuncture and more.
    >> Use the easy pull-down topic menus on the front page (up at the top where it says, 'quick jump to')


  • Make a suggestion about this article or the Pulse. Your criticisms will help us improve and bring you even better info in the future! Thanks ahead of time :)
    >> Email me your concerns and suggestions (bbcarter@pulsemed.org)

All the best!



Airlines, Flights, Airways - Animals/Pets - Beauty Salons, Fitness - Books, Book Sellers - Bracelets, Bands, Italian Charms - Cars and Car Parts - Cellular Phones, Phone Cards - Christian Articles - Dating, Weddings, Divorce - Free Greeting Cards, E Cards, Printables - City Guides - Clothes, Fashion - Shoes reviews - Mens/Womens Boots - Crafts - Education/Writing - Electronics, iPods, Cameras, Computers, TV, DVD - Finance, Money, Banking, Investing, Insurance - Foods/Recipes - Free Stuff - Games/Toys - Home Stuff - Humor/Fun - Jewelry - Legal/Lawyers - Mechanical, Parts, Home Repair - Music - News Web Sites - Public Speaking - Real Estate, Homes, Land, Apartments - Restaurant Guide - Search Engine Web Sites - Small Business/Wholesale - Sports/Fitness - Weight Lifting - Weight Loss, Losing Weight - T-Shirts - Toys, Kid Games, Dolls - Travel/Vacations/Holidays - Web Design, Marketing, Traffic - Womens Dress, Fashion, Business

All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International