How do you decide where to put the needles?

The body has hundreds of acupuncture points an acupuncturist can use in combination to affect a certain change. The points I choose and how I needle them depends upon the patient’s unique presentation. In addition to the information I obtain during our intake and gather through conversation with the patient, I take pulses at both wrists and observe the tongue.

I usually spend about 3-5 minutes or so “listening” to the pulses, as it is sometimes called. This is a different process from what happens at your MD’s office; I’m not counting beats per minute in one wrist. Rather, I feel three different pulse positions in each wrist. Rate is part of what I look for, but that’s generally relative to the breath – not beats per minute. I also notice the pulse’s overall qualities – is it forceful, weak, strong on top, empty down below, thin, wide, etc. I’m interested both in how the pulse appears as a whole and how the three different positions feel individually.

There’s a lot that goes into pulse diagnosis – there are volumes written on the subject – so suffice to say here that through pulse diagnosis I am able to gather substantial information both about the current state of affairs in the body, and about the subtle direction of health.

The same can be said for the tongue. Tongue diagnosis looks at the tongue’s overall character – is it red, pale, shiny, wet, dry, covered in a thick coat, puffy, thin, quivering, stiff, speckled, cracked? This gives the clinician clues as to the state of fluids in the body.

As the beginning of the digestive system, the tongue gives insight into the health of overall digestion. The tongue is also understood as a type of map that reflects the health of the body’s other systems.