☯ What is an Acupuncture Point? - Part 1

When learning acupuncture, “points” are the exciting part. They are listed in textbooks, diagramed, and categorized. Entire classes are devoted to looking at each point in great depth, one by one. Sometimes in our rush (or classroom pressure) for detail we lose track of the bigger picture and simply move past the question, “What are acupuncture points?”

This is an important question. We do not want to simply skip this question because the details of each specific point are more interesting. Considering “What exactly are acupuncture points,” can help us understand better the medicine and communicate it clearly to our clients.

We will explore the questions, “What is an Acupuncture Point,” in a number of posts. To start we will consider the Chinese word itself.


A good place to begin is with the word which translates to acupuncture point, “Shùxué”.

The first part, “Shù” -Describes a water like movement or activity.

The second part, “Xue” - Describes a dug out space which serves as a place of protection.

Taken together this word, “shuxue” or acupuncture point describes: a protected, dug out space where activity or movement takes place.


Water Like Movement

The body is system which is always communicating with itself. Communication cannot be static it requires energy and movement. This communication and movement flows throughout the body. It keeps the body harmonized and healthy. All of this movement can be thought of as “flow”, or “energy”, or “Qi”.

 Traditional definitions of Qi include the words: vibration, energy, movement, and flow. [http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2004/sep/09lo.html] Therefore acupuncture points are areas where a great deal of this movement occurs.

In addition, the majority of acupuncture points are found on anatomically active areas. The energy and movement is reflected physically through out the body. Powerful and highly used acupuncture points such as LI4, LI 11, St 36, Kd 3, and Sp 3 are all located on areas of the body where a great deal of physical movement takes place. 

Dug Out Space

The vast majority of acupuncture points are found in soft spots, depressions, or “dug out spaces” on the body. Some of these space are obvious, such as SJ 17 behind the ear lobe. Others are palpable through touch, such as Sp 6. Others are faint and subtle, like SJ 5 on the wrist. 

Within these soft spots the flow and energy and movement builds up into powerful concentrations.

Powerful Combination 

Because the concentrated areas have more power, they have the ability to communicate strongly with the entire pathway or channel.


When we needle a point, we stimulate the energy within the point and communicate with the entire channel and body.

The term “Shùxué” helps answer the question, “What is an acupuncture point?” 

Acupuncture points are soft depressions found on the body where activity, movement, and energy, build up and concentrate. Stimulating these areas allows powerful communication to occur within the body.