How To Read An Acupuncture Chart

How Do I Use an Acupuncture Chart?


At Integrative Acupuncture in Montpelier and Williston, Vermont we have acupuncture charts hanging in each of our treatment rooms. Like many acupuncture practices, these are up for décor and to be used for reference and educational purposes. Some people may tend to be restless on the table while laying with needles, so they study the charts with confusion and ask many questions when I come back in the room.


Energy and Channels


I explain that they are looking at the Chinese medical energetic anatomy of the body. The vertical colored lines they are wondering about are marking the meridians, or channels, where the energy of the body flows. These are clearly different from blood vessels or nerve pathways. These superficial channels typically begin and end on the extremities of the body, meaning at the fingers, toes, or the head. Importantly, they also travel deeply to the internal organs.


The channels are identified by the organs that they affect. There are twelve main channels that lead to internal organs, and each are populated with varying numbers of very specific points. These points are where the energy moving along the channel can become most accumulated and accessible to change. Those black dots on the chart, signifying the points, are where we place the acupuncture needles.


I also try to help my patients understand the “energy” mentioned simply as the aspect of us that allows for the normal functioning of the body. The energy that moves in these specific pathways influences the circulation of blood, body fluid, the lymphathic system, nervous system, etc. Through the proper amount and appropriate circulation, the energy allows all of the internal organs to function effectively.


Why Needle on the Leg for Indigestion?


Because the channels have both a superficial aspect along the musculoskeletal part of the body and a deep aspect at the internal organ, we can stimulate points on one part of the channel to regulate the body’s deeper functioning. There is a very common point at the lower part of the Stomach channel below the knee that I probably use everyday for digestive issues. By needling this specific point, the workings of the stomach can be improved and the patient may experience less bloating and gas or heartburn, better quality stools, and more energy. Points are also used along the channels to treat the local muscle tissue or joints, typically for pain. You can see these points on any acupuncture chart.


How to Find the Points?


After looking at the acupuncture chart, patients will often ask how they can find the points. I explain that this is why the acupuncturist has a master’s degree. Part of the three to four years of education is in point location, learning how to find the points based on body structures, specific measurements, and from palpation. Often the points are tender to the touch for the patient, and the practitioner may feel a sense of fullness or emptiness under the thumb or fingertip.


What’s important to know from the charts is the general concept of this energetic anatomy that the acupuncturist is focusing their attention on. The charts can familiarize the patient with the acupuncture channels and points and the mindset of the practitioner. Please feel free to ask any questions that come up while resting on the acupuncture table.