By Sara Calabro
Acupuncture devotees are dying to know: Why are you doing that point? It is one of the most common questions that acupuncturists receive during treatments.
This is the first installment of an ongoing series that explains popular acupuncture points.
The logic behind choosing points varies. Certain acupuncture styles recommend points for unique reasons. Even within the same style, many points have more than one indication. Some points can substitute for others in cases where, for example, a needle-sensitive person prefers being stuck elsewhere. Other points can be left out or added based on the overall combination.
Recognizing that there are variations and exceptions, certain acupuncture points are used with a relative amount of uniformity. Across styles, they are known to be especially powerful in their effects. As a result, acupuncturists use them a lot. If you’re a regular acupuncture goer, you’ll probably recognize them.
This inaugural article of the “Why Are You Doing That Point?” series is a twofer. We’ll look at Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4, two points that are popular in their own right and also frequently needled together in a combination called Four Gates.
Liver 3 gets things moving
Liver 3 is what’s known as a source point. Every meridian has one. Source points behave sort of like central stations on subway lines. They are hubs where internal and external energies gather and transform. They are single, high-concentration points that grant access to the larger system.
Because Liver 3 has such far-reaching effects, it is indicated for a very wide variety of conditions. John Pirog, in The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture, says Liver 3 is “probably the most important point for stagnation of the inner body.”
Liver 3 is used for menstrual cramps, headaches, vision problems, coastal-region pain and shortness of breath, low back pain, insomnia, and more. The list truly goes on and on. Feeling stuck? Hello, Liver 3. This point gets things moving.
Liver 3’s extensive effects are palpable. Needling it usually causes a strong achy sensation, either locally at the site of insertion, throughout the entire foot, or sometimes even up into the leg along the Liver meridian.
If you’ve had acupuncture, you’ve probably had Liver 3. If you haven’t yet, consider it inevitable.
Large Intestine 4 is a great bang for your buck
Large Intestine 4, like Liver 3, is a fantastic bang for your buck. If you think about the location, between the first and second fingers, it’s basically the upper-body version of Liver 3, which is located between the first and second “fingers” on the lower body.
Large Intestine 4 is a source point as well. It is indicated for a wide variety of conditions and also tends to cause a strong needling sensation.
Probably the best-known use of Large Intestine 4 is to release the exterior. This refers to treating what are known as Wind conditions—chills and fever, runny nose, headaches, stiff upper back and neck, too much or too little sweating, sore throat, dizziness, etc. Large Intestine 4 is the go-to point for these types of symptoms. It is thought to disperse the Wind and also bolster the body’s defenses against recurrence.
Other common indications for Large Intestine 4 include toothache, sinusitis, rhinitis, nosebleeds and Bell’s Palsy. This is because the Large Intestine meridian travels up to the face, so almost any symptom related to that region calls for the point.
In addition to these common uses, Large Intestine 4 is used in treatments for everything from constipation to skin disease to low back pain.
Note: Large Intestine 4 is contraindicated during pregnancy.
Another note: Here’s a great product for applying acupressure to Large Intestine 4.
Four acupuncture points are better than one
Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4 are often used together. Each point is done on both sides of the body, creating a four-point combination known as Four Gates. This is one of the most frequently used point combinations in all of acupuncture.
There are many theories associated with Four Gates but the prevailing idea is that the combination opens up circulation throughout the entire body. Liver 3 handles the lower half while Large Intestine 4 addresses the upper. Together, they pack a powerful punch.
Four Gates usually tackles symptoms caused by stagnation. This includes pain as well as menstrual irregularities, constipation, or feelings of frustration—basically anything that suggests things aren’t flowing as smoothly as they should be.
The next installment of “Why Are You Doing That Point?” is on Stomach 36. Read it now.
Photo by Sara Calabro; LV3 and LI4 infographics from A Manual of Acupuncture
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