The origins of acupuncture are thought to date back as far as 100 BC. Originally practised in China, the first documented evidence is the “Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing)" which is believed to have been published around this time. While acupuncture forms part of traditional Chinese medicine, it is now being supported by a growing body of up to date scientific research and clinical evidence, allowing health professionals such as Physiotherapists to provide evidence-based acupuncture as part of their treatment.
Acupuncture is a complementary medicine used to treat a variety of conditions and pain. It works by stimulating certain channels of the body using specialist fine needles to penetrate the skin; these needles stimulate the muscles of the body and the sensory nerves under the skin to release the body's natural chemicals and endorphins to help alleviate pain.
Evidence-based acupuncture is used by physiotherapists as part of a holistic approach to pain management to help clients recover from injuries.
It is safe to massage some of these points yourself to help relieve pain. However, it’s important to use a qualified and experienced practitioner for acupuncture to help assess and treat your injuries correctly.
Areas of the body
It is worth noting that many of these points are used to treat multiple areas of the body. The acupuncture points for the head, neck, back and shoulders are closely linked, for example.
The points in this guide can safely be used for acupressure, but they are examples of points which can assist with pain caused by injuries, not an exhaustive list. Please always seek the advice of a professional to treat your specific injuries or pain. Our guide has been produced in partnership with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists
It has long been recognised that acupuncture is an effective form of treatment for migraines. There is also evidence to suggest it works well for cluster, tension, post-traumatic and disease-related headaches. Headaches can be a result of an injury and are particularly common after road traffic accidents.
The acupuncture points used for headaches will depend on the type of headache you're suffering from. Your practitioner will first look at your medical history and discuss in detail your current health or pain issues. They will then begin your treatment which will involve using the correct series of pressure points for your pain. This may include:
This point is found in between your eyebrows at the bridge of your nose and can be used for head pain and congestion. It is used by people who suffer from headaches as it is easy to access and provides instant relief to help ease the pain.
Bamboo Gathering (B2)
The Bamboo Gathering or Bright Lights point is used to help ease pain at the front of the head. The point is located on the bone just above the eyelid. This is often used for acupressure by combining it with the Yintang point (above)
Wind Pool (GB20)
A common point used particularly for migraine pain is Wind Pool. It can also help with the eye blurriness or fatigue associated with migraines. GB20 is just below your ear in the two hollows that are found on either side of your neck, near the base of your skull.
Wind Mansion (GV16)
A point used for head pain, neck tension and stress is Wind Mansion. It is efficient in relieving pain for all of these areas. It is located at the bottom of the hairline, in the hollow that is in the middle of the skull. To massage the point, you can lean your head back onto your thumb and gently rock your head from side to side.
People can find relief for minor head pain by using these pressure points themselves by pushing or massaging these points.
Injuries to the neck are one of the most common injuries seen by personal injury lawyers, usually due to whiplash after an impact in a motor accident. Whiplash is caused when the head jolts forward and backwards rapidly causing the muscles and soft tissue in the neck to stretch and strain.
Neck pain is often associated with head pain and can be successfully treated with acupuncture. Many of the points to help ease neck pain are also points for head pain as the two areas of the body are so closely linked, your practitioner will advise which is the right approach for your particular injury.
Points for neck pain include:
Celestial Pillar (BL10)
The Celestial Pillar point is located in the hollows in the middle of the neck underneath the base of the skull. Stimulating this point has been shown to reduce neck tension and stiffness. It is also useful in easing the tension and associated pain from headaches and migraines. Again, to massage the points, you can lean your head back onto your thumbs and gently rock your head from side to side.
Celestial Window (SI16)
This point is located just below the ear above the base of the neck. It is used to reduce pain in the neck and helps relieve the pain of headaches. It is also thought to offer benefits in reducing pain in the throat.
Completion Bone (GB12)
Like the Celestial Window, the completion bone point is located in the depression behind the ear, but slightly higher up, away from the base of the head. This point is also used to ease neck pain, shoulder pain, dizziness and headaches.
There are many points to help with neck pain that are located in the head. These include:
Jade Pillow (BL09)
This point is accessed from the side of the neck. This helps people who have stiffness and pain in their neck and find it difficult or painful to move their head from side to side. This is also used as a yoga massage pose to help ease tension in the neck.
Light Guard (BL06)
The light guard point, like the Jade Pillow point, is on the bladder channel. It is a good point to relieve neck tension and clear the head. It also has benefits to the eyes and nose. The point lies in line with the inner canthus placing it on the top of the head not the lateral aspect.
Pain in the shoulders can range from general tension due to poor posture or a poor sleep position through to serious injuries like broken collarbones or torn tendons.
Shoulder pain can also be caused by certain conditions, frozen shoulder and rotator cuff disorders for example.
Frozen shoulder is a condition where the tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint thickens, swells and becomes tight. This causes stiffness and pain in the shoulder making it difficult to move.
The rotator cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder; it can become damaged due to certain conditions or because of the impact of an accident. Shoulder injuries are common in road traffic and sporting accidents.
Qualified Acupuncture Physiotherapists use a variety of points and techniques to help alleviate pain in the shoulders including:
Shoulder Well (GB21)
Shoulder Well (Jian Jing) is a point commonly used for shoulder tension and stiffness. The point is located in the shoulder well at the highest point of the shoulder muscle. Pressure can be applied with the thumbs to massage the point.
There are several points on the shoulder girdle that can help with pain from shoulder pain or injury.
Shoulder Bone (LI15)
Shoulder Bone (Jain Yu) is a used for shoulder pain, particularly when the pain stops you from raising your arm above your head. The shoulder bone point is located on the highest point of the arm where it meets the top of the shoulder.
Great Bone (LI16)
Moving along the shoulder girdle, the next point is Great Bone (Ju Gu). This point is also used for pain in the shoulder or back and is noted as being particularly useful for those with pain in the shoulder blade. The point is found on the top of the shoulder.
Celestial Pillar (B10)
The Celestial Pillar point is at the back of the head. It is noted as an acupressure point for the relief of stress and the associated tension in the neck and shoulders. This point is in the centre at the base of the skull. To massage the point, you can lean your head back onto your thumb and gently rock your head from side to side.
The majority of people will suffer from back pain or at least backache at some point in their life. Back pain can be relatively mild from jarring or poor posture, through to severe conditions and spinal injuries caused by accidents. The impact on someone’s life if they are suffering from severe back pain can be substantial.
Acupuncture can help lessen the pain, and make life and movement more comfortable. The points used differ depending on whether it is upper or lower back pain, although some points are used for both or together to offer a more efficient solution.
Some of the points that are effective for back pain are below:
Shen QI (BL23 and Hun Gate BL47)
The lower back points (Shen QI and Hun Gate) are used for lower back pain. They can be used by people suffering from sciatica pain or lower backache through injury, illness or poor posture. The point is at waist height on the back, near the spine. These points should be used with caution, particularly if you have a weak back. It is advisable to seek the advice of a qualified practitioner.
Commanding Middle (ST36 and GB34)
The knee back points (Commanding Middle - Leg Three Miles and Yang Mound Spring) benefit those with muscle stiffness in their back or those looking for relief from conditions such as arthritis. Like many of the points for the back, they can also be used to relieve the pain of sciatica. The points can be found at the rear of the knee and the outside of the leg, slightly below the knee. Each of these points should be rubbed “briskly” every day to help with muscle tension and pain.
Conditions that cause pain to the elbow are common, particularly for those that take part in racquet sports. Tennis and golf elbow are well known in the sporting world and are the names for the same conditions when the tendons become inflamed due to repetitive movement. Other injuries or conditions related to the elbow are usually the result of falls or trapped nerves caused by general wear and tear and arthritis as the body gets older.
As with all areas of the body, there are several points that can be used to help alleviate pain in the elbow. These can all be used safely as acupressure points. The points include:
Pool at the Bend (LI11)
This point is considered one of the most efficient for treating pain and tension in the elbow and is regarded as a successful approach to treating tennis elbow. The point is found in the hollow situated at the outer end of the elbow crease.
Cubit Marsh (LU5)
Also located in the crease of the elbow on the outside of the biceps brachii tendon, this point is used to treat inflammation, spasms and restricted arm movement, which is often caused by tennis elbow.
Elbow Bone Hole (LI12)
The Elbow Bone Hole point (Zhou Liao) is located when the elbow onto on the outer side of the arm where the bone of the upper arm (humerus) meets the elbow. This point can be used for elbow pain. It's also suitable to treat aching, numbness and elbow spasms and to help with pain in the upper arm.
Wrist and hands
Pain or tenderness in the wrist or hands can be caused by a variety of factors, from repetitive strain injuries, or conditions such as carpal tunnel, tendinitis and arthritis. Wrist pain can also be caused as a result of an accident or fall causing a fracture, sprain or dislocation.
Acupuncture can be used to treat pain associated with the wrist. The points utilised depend on the type of pain and the underlying cause and include:
Outer Pass (TE5)
Triple Energiser 5 (Outer Pass) is a local acupuncture point used to treat pain in the wrist. Specifically, it is effective at addressing pain caused by rheumatism and tendinitis. The point is on the outer side of the arm, in between the two forearm bones (radius and the ulna) above the wrist.
Yang Pool (TE4)
Triple Energiser 4 is also another useful point for treating carpal tunnel syndrome or pain in the arms and neck. It is used for a variety of pains but is noted in helping with dorsal wrist issues such as sprains and strains. It is located on the back of the arm in the crease of the wrist.
Inner Gate (PC6)
Inner Gate is used to treat a variety of symptoms including carpal tunnel syndrome. It is the same point that is stimulated by anti-sickness bands and can also help with anxiety, motion sickness, insomnia and general nausea. The point is located in the centre on the inside of the wrist, approx. 2cm from the crease of the hand and wrist.
Great Mound (PC7)
Great Mound is used to treat pain in the wrist and thumb. This point is good for relieving pain from a variety of issues with the wrist including arthritis, rheumatism, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. The point is located in the middle of the wrist crease between the hand and wrist.
Pain in the hips can be very debilitating, causing issues with mobility and day to day activities; it is more common in women. The most common cause of hip pain is due to arthritis.
Hip pain can also be caused by fractures due to accidents such as trips and falls. Those with decreased bone density (osteoporosis) are particularly vulnerable. Tendinitis can also cause pain in the hip area when the tendons become inflamed; this is common in runners.
Women can suffer pain in the hips due to gynaecological issues or inguinal hernias which can be painful in the front of the hip. Some of the points for hip pain are:
Squatting Bone Hole (GB29)
Squatting Bone Hole, also called Ju Liao, is a point often used to relieve pain in the hip region. The point is located mid-way across the hip bone. This point is used to treat pain caused by hip inflammation which is in turn caused by muscle sprains, sciatica and weakness or numbness in the hip joint.
Jumping Round (GB30)
The Jumping Round or Jumping Circle point is a local point that can be used to treat some types of hip pain. The location of this point is one-third of the way between the hip and the sacrum. This point is particularly useful for treating pain caused by sciatica, general lower back pain or hip spasms and muscle pain
Yang Mould Spring (GB34)
Yang Mould is quoted as being “extremely beneficial” for alleviating hip pain. By stimulating this point, the muscles in the hip can be strengthened which helps reduce pain from sciatica and inflammation. It is a useful point for treating any soft tissue in the body. The point is accessed at the outer side of the leg, just below the knee.
Bladder Vitals (BL53)
The Bladder Vitals point is used to reduce the symptoms, and pain, in the lower back, hips and buttocks. Sufferers of sciatica can find this point useful. It is located in the gluteal muscles in the middle of the buttocks. The Bladder Vitals point can feel sensitive if the area is already inflamed or you are suffering from back pain. Therefore, it is advisable to massage these points gently and with care.
Our knees endure a lot of impact from day to day activities. They also take a lot of impact from sporting or leisure activities from walking and running through to horse riding and football. Our knees take the brunt of our movement and are designed to do so. However, because they are used so much, they are often one of the first things to cause pain from wear and tear.
Pain in the knee can be caused by a variety of factors such as general wear and tear, a trip, sporting injury or a more serious injury sustained in an accident. Several acupuncture points can help reduce pain in the knee or surrounding tendons and ligaments, some of the most common ones used are below:
Yin Mound Spring (SP9)
Yin Mound Spring or Shady Side of the Mountain is located at the back of the knee, in the middle of the crease at the top of the shin bone. It is a particularly useful point for knee issues, swelling in the legs and conditions such as cramps and tensions. This point can be tender to touch, so if you are using acupressure yourself, please exercise caution.
Yang Mound Spring (GB34)
Yang Mound Spring or Sunny Side of the Mountain is located at the front of the knee facing the sun, as the name suggests! The point is located on the outer side of the lower leg above the shinbone.
This point is used to help with excessive knee pain caused by tendon injuries, tension, muscle aches and strains. It can also contribute to decreasing stiffness in the knee.
Bend Middle (BL40)
This point is located at the back of the knee in the centre. It is used to reduce swelling in the knee and help with lower back pain. It is also useful for pain caused by sciatica and arthritis or for controlling spasms in the muscles and stiffness in the knees and legs.
Spring at the Bend (LR8)
Spring at the Bend (or Spring at the Crook) is another point located by the knee. It can be accessed when the knee is flexed; the point is on the inside of the knee at the end of the bent knee crease.
It is used to relax muscles, and to aid the recovery of damage to the knees. It can help with swelling and pain in the knees. The point is also used to help with fibroids.
Pain in the legs can come in many forms; ulcers, cramp, trapped nerves, health conditions or injuries. Injuries to the legs can be due to a variety of factors including slipping or tripping over, leisure activities, playing sports or being involved in a more serious accident. Injuries to the leg tend to be fractures, muscle, tendon or ligament tears or strains. When people refer to leg pain, they often mean pain in a particular part of the leg, the knee or ankle. However, some injuries to specific muscles such the hamstring or shin are often seen as a result of sporting injuries.
Acupuncture can help with chronic pain, including leg pain. The points used to help the legs depend on the underlying condition or reason for the initial pain.
Leg Three Li (ST36)
Leg Three Li (Leg Three Mile) is noted as being a useful pressure point to help with lower leg pain. It is a point used by athletes to improve the stamina in their legs. The point can be found by sliding your fingers up your shinbone towards your knee. When the palm of your hand reaches your knee, the point is on the outside of your leg, in line with your little finger.
Branch to the Correct (SI7)
Branch to the Correct (or Branch of the Upright) is a point used for many ailments but can often help specifically with the pain associated with Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) (more commonly known as Shin Splints). Perhaps surprisingly the point is located nowhere near the shins, but halfway between the wrist and the elbow.
Ankle and heels
Like any area of the leg, ankle pains are common. The pain can be caused by medical conditions such as arthritis, gout or tendinitis. Sprains, dislocations and fractures can cause acute ankle pain while the joint is healing and longer term depending on the severity of the initial injury.
Any pain in the leg can affect mobility and day to day activities, particularly if you have pain when weight bearing or have pain even when not bearing weight on the joint.
Many acupuncture points can help with ankle pain. These can be safely used for acupressure. An acupuncture physiotherapist may use different points depending on the cause of your pain. These may include:
Hill Ruins (GB40)
Hill Ruins is a point often used to ease the pain of a sprained ankle. It’s also a key point for ankle swelling, stiffness and associated pain or for toe cramps or pain that travels down to the foot from sciatica. The point is located where the ankle meets the top of the foot; it is the large hollow in front of the ankle bone.
Shining Sea (KI6)
Shining Sea (or Illuminated Sea) is located on the inside of the anklebone. The Illuminated Sea or point is used to help weakness in the ankles and assists with pain due to cramps. It is known to relieve water retention in the ankles and the associated swelling.
Kunlun Mountains (BL60)
The Kunlun Mountains point is located on the outer ankle bone, behind the joint. This point is used to help ease pain associated with the ankle or other parts of the lower body. It can also contribute to alleviating pain caused by sciatica and suffering in the back or other joints in the legs.
Support the Mountain (BL57)
A common cause of ankle and heel pain, seen in joggers and cyclists, is a pain in the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon injuries can cause fairly minor stiffness or cramps, or in severe cases, it can rupture altogether. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body; it runs from the heel to the calf muscle in the lower leg.
An effective acupuncture point to help ease the pain associated with the Achilles tendon is Support the Mountain. This point is located in the centre of the lower leg. Stimulating this point relaxes the tendon and the half muscle, helping to ease the pain.
Choosing the right practitioner
The importance of using a qualified practitioner for acupuncture cannot be understated. Although the points shown in this guide can be safely used for acupressure, acupuncture should only be carried out by a trained professional.
Physiotherapists are the largest group of medical professionals in the UK practising acupuncture.
The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) is a professional network affiliated with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). The Association represents physiotherapists trained in western medical acupuncture for the management of pain and systemic conditions.
You are assured of safe and effective treatment with a member of the AACP.
Find your local AACP Physiotherapist
Or if you would prefer to seek the advice of a traditional acupuncturist please search the British Acupuncture Council members.
all images adapted from freepik.com