5 Acupuncture Mistakes to Avoid

Every Acupuncture & Naturopathic Student Needs to Know



I’ve been teaching acupuncture point location for 15 years at a Naturopathic college here in Toronto and during this time, I’ve witnessed some common mistakes that students tend to make when locating points in class.

Believe me, this is not an exhaustive list but if you can be mindful of these common issues, you’ll make future acupuncture treatments on actual paying clients much more comfortable, more enjoyable for them and more efficient for you as a practitioner.

Mistake #1:  Incorrect Patient Positioning

Imagine being put into a position that isn’t that comfortable and then being told not to move a muscle for 30 or so minutes.

Sound awful?  It is!

This is pretty much what you’re doing once you put needles into a patient who isn’t perfectly positioned on the treatment table – especially a new person to Acupuncture who assumes you can’t move at all.                                                                                         You need to think about patient comfort before you start putting needles in your client!  Make sure they are completely comfy before the first needle goes in.  Slightly bent limbs are always more comfortable than extended ones, make sure their head and neck look comfortable, make sure patients aren’t holding up their body parts to make things easy for you.

For an Acupuncture treatment to be relaxing, you need to start thinking more about patient positioning before the needling starts.

Mistake #2 – Not Using the cun Measurements When cun Measurements are Available to You

Have you heard of directional vs proportional measuring?  These are the two types of measuring that acupuncturists use to determine the location of many acupuncture points.

What I’m referring to is when people resort to their thumbs in areas where there are clearly cun measurements to use.  Using the thumb and fingers to measure areas that have existing cun measurements is a no-no in my book.  Use the cun measurements if they are available to you and save the thumb and finger measuring for areas which have no dedicated cun measurements.

Mistake #3 – Palpating the Wrong Anatomy

When it comes to incorrect point location – this might be the biggest factor – especially for newer students.

As acupuncturists, you will be palpating the anatomy of clients constantly.  Anatomical landmarks are tremendously important when locating acupuncture points and if you can’t find theses landmarks, your point location will be off and your patient outcomes may suffer.  This is especially true for the lower back area.  So many students have trouble in this area.

The upper neck also seems to be a problem for students.  If you think you might want to see videos on these areas, let me know in the comments below.  Bottom line, you need to practice on anatomical palpation.

The more people and body types the better!  Just get your hands on as many different people as you can and practice.  It is not enough to know where the point is located, you have to be able to find it to help the patient.   

Mistake #4 – Not Locating on Both Sides of the Body

Speaking of not practising enough – so many students make the mistake of not locating points on BOTH sides of the body when they are practising point location.

So many students think that since they found it on one side, the other side is not worth doing.

When you’re practising point location, always take advantage of locating points on both sides of your patients body.  You will surprise yourself how many mistakes are made by simply doing the other side.

Train your brain to find points on both sides of the body – this is how you will be locating points in your clinic practice anyway so start this step now so it isn’t more difficult when you get to a clinic setting.

Mistake #5 – Not Considering the Point Actions

Don’t forget to consider point actions when locating points – so many students suffer from point selection struggles and you can minimize this by briefly getting the general actions of the point you are locating.

Is it a description point?  Does it have something special like a contraindication to pregnancy?  Something memorable so it sticks in your mind more efficiently.

You should know that CV 12 is the Front Mu of the Stomach and this point will have actions on the epigastric area for issues such as reflux, belching nausea or epigastric pain.

Start incorporating point actions into your point location work.  This will help improve your acupuncture point selection down the road…something that many people seem to struggle with as well.

In Summary

Remember these things when locating your points

  1. Make sure patients are in the ideal position for the acupuncture prescription you have chosen – don’t move people around once you have needles in them! Huge pet peeve of mine.
  2. Use the cun measurements when you have them available – thumb is the last resort.
  3. Practice your anatomy palpation on different body types – work hard on areas that are difficult for you like the neck and lower back.
  4. Practise actually locating on a human being more and locate on both sides of the body!  Remember, looking at your books is one thing, but it does not compare to working on an actual body.
  5. Try to focus on one important action for the point you are locating.  Start the process of connecting a points action to its location.  For more on this concept, take my course on Acupuncture Point Selection Mastery.  Where you’ll be guided through a simple 5 step process-  making acupuncture point selection faster, easier and resulting in better clinical outcomes.  Just click on the link in the menu and go and check out the free preview – you’ll be glad you did!