One of the frustrating aspects of point location is counting the vertebrae. We need to do this when locating the Back Shu points or the Du Mai points.
The difficulty is created by the fact that the spinous process of each vertebra is at a different angle. There is a natural tendency when counting the vertebrae to imagine each spinous process lying at a 90 degree angle to the body. However, these bony protrusions do not all each lie at a 90 degree angle.
Many spinous processes emerge from the body at sharper angles, sometimes as much as 45 degrees. When this occurs the spinous process will partially cover the body of the NEXT vertebra.
This overlapping most often occurs in the midback between T6 and T12. (Right at the levels of the Liver, Gallbladder, Spleen, and Stomach Back Shu points!)
I have found one technique to counting vertebrae useful in both my personal practice and teaching students. Rather than only looking for the pointy spinous process — palpate the sides of each vertebra with a finger on each side.
This technique allows you to feel the bodies of each vertebra. It keeps you from being thrown off when the spinous process is overlapping with the body below it. If you use this technique, and also count the spinous processes, the two techniques together make counting the vertebrae and finding the Back Shu Points much, much easier.