What is an acupuncture point?

By | August 19, 2021

Eusung Woo, ESATM Masters of Science in Acupuncture, Student

I have been asked occasionally to give answers to the question of what acupuncture points are since I have started studying acupuncture.  I wrestled to explain just as I am writing this because there are still misconceptions and stereotypes about acupuncture.  I decided not to used any terms of energy or neuroscience because these are somewhat limiting and preoccupied image of what acupuncture points are.

1. “In Chinese acupuncture tradition and language, the names of points are important and informative because the Chinese names explain intuitively the location and its relationship to the human anatomy.” (Chernyak & Sessler, 2005) 

Among many excellent writings on acupuncture points, I like the above author’s observation because of its contexts to the human body and how the names of points can contain their functions and meanings.  According to Chernyak and Sessler, these acupuncture points are located in the spaces.  These are between muscles, between tendons, and in the depression around the joints. 

2. “Acupuncture points have therapeutic action and indication for its use”

Ascribing to the indication and functions of acupuncture points is considered a modern research and practice since 1950 in China.  However,  the process of reworking of earlier textbooks and materials goes all the way back to the Han dynasty according to Kaptuck.

Keown described in his book that just as there are an infinite number of presentations of illness, so there are an infinite number of points.  There are certain places on the body which are considered to be more powerful than others. Therefore, practitioner chooses to work on those points that are most appropriate for treating a particular individual’s pattern of disharmony (Kaptchuk, 2008). 

3. “The distinction between inner and outer has more to do with significance than with place- the interior is more important than the exterior. (Kaptchuk, 2008).”

Acupuncture as a part of comprehensive system of medicine, traditional Chinese

acupuncture mapped out the points that are called Meridians (Kaptchuk, 2008).  Through the Meridians, acupuncture points have access to the body. The Meridians depicts pathways both inside the body, organs, and on the surface of the body.

Therefore, according to the Kaptchuk treating the points on the surface of the body will change what goes inside the body.


Keown, D. (2014). The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Chernyak, G., Sessler, D., & Warltier, D. (2005). Perioperative Acupuncture and Related Techniques. Anesthesiology, 102(5), 1031–1049. https://doi.org/10.1097/00000542-200505000-00024

Kaptchuk, T. J.(2008). The web that has no weaver: understanding Chinese medicine. McGraw-Hill.

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