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September 2, 2012 / Karen R Adams

why did I choose those points?

Some people find acupuncture confusing.  They want to know why I use points in their feet to treat their headaches – or the pain in their elbows or hands.  And what’s with that really weird point that is on the inside of the calf that makes a shoulder (!) feel better.

I’ll put a needle in, and they get this really baffled look on their faces as they rotate the sore spot to test it out.  Some even look almost angry.  How could this work?  The needle is nowhere near the back pain, and yet they can bend over for the first time in weeks.

I get a kick out of the varied reactions, because really, I agree with them.  How is it possible that the needles in the palm of the hand make the plantar fasciitis stop hurting?  Who ever figured that out?

Sometimes I know the theory behind a point selection.  There are 365 named points on the body, and over 175 in the ears.  If they’ve been named, then there is knowledge of the spirit of the point and its functions which is available to us through ancient and modern texts.

The point that’s in the web between the thumb and forefinger that you probably heard you could massage when you get a headache?  It has a job description that’s inches long – in 8 point font.  It moves qi, the channel it’s on goes up around the mouth and ends by the nose, making it useful for toothache in the upper jaw, and for the sinuses.  It is good for headaches, but only those on the forehead, so if you’ve tried massaging it for a temple headache, it probably didn’t work.

When I left acupuncture school, I had a very small database of points that I understood; my patients have given me the opportunity to expand that database, and they continue to do so.  I always set up my office so I can spread out my books so I can look things up, find a good point, make sure I knew how to locate it.  I’ve always been really open about that.  I figure my patients would prefer I checked and did it right rather than try to impress them by looking like I know everything.

And still, 10 years into this, I haven’t begun to know what will be the most effective points to use to help someone recover from the many, many issues they bring in the door.  (Thank heavens for those books.)  I certainly have no idea why they work.

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  We humans are unbelievably complex, gloriously unique among each other.  One of my teachers used to say ‘Treating pain is easy.  Diagnosing it is the tricky part.’  When the treatment works, it’s because I’ve managed to get the diagnosis right.  Sometimes I get it right the first thing I try – and let me tell you, that delights and surprises me as much as it does my patient.  (Bet you didn’t know about my happy dance in the hallway when the magic worked, did you.)

It’s not all magic, of course.  There are centuries of accrued knowledge for me to draw on, hundreds if not thousands of acupuncturists who thoughtfully passed on the things they learned from their patients (and my deepest thanks to you).  And still, no one knows for sure how it all works.

But that doesn’t really matter, does it?  The truth is, each point is an invitation to re-align ourselves to be pain free, easy in spirit, to walk our Tao in joy and health.  If I, as your practitioner, pick the wrong point, the worst thing that happens is nothing happens – that we notice at the time, anyway.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to believe in acupuncture for it to work, but you Another day, another chance. Feel free to have to be alert to the invitation.  You also have to recognize that it’s never so simple as back pain.  You have a whole lifetime that has brought you to the point where you walk in the door of my acupuncture clinic, and sometimes the back pain is what has brought you to the place that will transform your life.

I can’t tell you how many times a patient has told me ‘The back pain? Well, it’s better, still there a bit.  But I’ve been sleeping so much better, and I have more energy.  And more patience.  Even my friends have noticed.’

And I walk out of the room, do my happy dance in the hallway.  Because the magic is in the transformation, however that manifests, and that’s so fine.

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