The Journey to Understanding Point Location by Nicola Gibbs

In the study of acupuncture, the Point Location process begins with a road map.

This detailed set of instructions allow us to palpate areas of the anatomy that may not be obvious by sight. Once we are in the ‘area’, our experience will then lead us towards identification of the actual location of the point.

When we are looking to locate a point, we cannot rely on sight.

In the practice of acupuncture, we need to identify the appropriate channel by connecting landmarks and then palpating the anatomy in order to find the point.

At CICM, we encourage our students to work with as many ‘bodies’ as possible. This ensure that, with practice, point location becomes second nature. When students can begin to trust their knowledge and experience, this also instill confidence.

When we reach this stage, we truly begin to understand point location.

Our point location examinations in the first year, place slightly more emphasis on the description/instruction for a point than its actual location. Becoming familiar with the description/instruction gives our students the confidence to locate the point on any ‘body’ they are working with, either male or female.

For example, to locate the point Stomach 36, (Chinese name Zusanli and commonly translated as Leg 3 Miles) we, at CICM would find by travelling the following route:

– Mark 16 cun from the height of the lateral malleolus to the flexure of the knee.

– Mark 13 cun above the prominence of the lateral malleolus.

– Roughly one finger width lateral to the crest of the tibia. Where you feel the condyle of the tibia begin to flare out.

– Feel for a small flat area in the tibialis anterior muscle. Ask your patient to raise and lower their foot to highlight a flat area.

– It is helpful to locate Stomach 36 with reference to the point Gall Bladder 34. The point is found roughly at a level 1 cun inferior to Gall Bladder 34.

We need to palpate the anatomy of the tibia and tibialis anterior to arrive at a place where Stomach 36 is located.

With the repetition of this journey, comes the understanding that the flare of the tibia may not always correspond exactly to our 13 cun mark. These instructions allow us to use the available anatomy of the lower leg to reach the area of Stomach 36, a place where anatomy may take precedence over cun marking, with a small adjustment being made.

Like any journey to a new destination, detailed instructions are required.

Each time you take the journey, you become more familiar with the route. Also, with each journey, comes an increased awareness of what is around you and this helps inform how to take the best route in future, in order to arrive at your destination.

It is often said the journey is more important than the destination, but in point location, both are equally important. However, as acupuncture practitioners, we can make this journey much easier when we work with a good and reliable, road map.

Nicola Gibbs is the Programme Leader for Points at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine

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