I often hear questions like, “What are acupuncture points? Do they have something to do with nerves?” The truth is, acupuncture points really don’t have much to do with nerves at all. What they are, and how they are able to affect all sorts of aspects of health can be a bit mind-bending to comprehend. Proceed reading with caution!

Acupuncture - Needle in an acupuncture point

Much More than Pain Management

If you look around in the media you’ll eventually come across someone explaining that acupuncture is simply manipulation of nerves that ultimately results in the body releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals of the brain. The endorphins, the hypothesis goes, then act to mediate the experience of pain in the body. It’s a tidy, straight-forward answer that’s easy for most people to accept. It is also obviously woefully incomplete.

The problem with this hypothesis is that pain is just one thing acupuncture can be used to treat! Endorphins can’t explain how acupuncture can be used to regulate menstrual cycles, enhance fertility, help insomnia, open congested sinuses, treat digestive issues, help people quit smoking and so on. Obviously there has to be more to acupuncture than the release of endorphins.


The word for “acupuncture point” in Chinese is “穴”, or “xué” in Pinyin. The top portion of the character is said to represent a covering while the bottom part represents a hole. The word is also translated as “cave”. So the word “point” is missing some of the connotations of the original Chinese word. Look here for more information about this character.

An acupuncture point is a 3-dimensional thing. It is a cave. It provides an access to something deep. What lies beneath the surface is acupuncture channels — the topic of a future article. (You can subscribe to the website using the subscribe link in the sidebar on the right side of this page to learn when new articles get added here.)

For now, it is sufficient to understand that acupuncture points provide a deep access to the energy of the body.

Field Effects

Through the last century or so the science of physics has begun to illuminate some of the strange rules by which the universe works. Energy and matter were discovered to be interchangeable. We began to see that matter exists as a wave or a field of infinite size. Originally it was thought that quantum mechanics only applied to the very microscopic world of atomic particles. Recently research published in the scientific journal “Nature” has shown that quantum effects can be observed in things big enough to see with the naked eye.

The foundation of “modern science” is Greek philosophy. The foundation for the science of acupuncture is Chinese Taoist philosophy. More and more these two sciences describe the universe in similar terms. I see this as an indication of progress, as they both attempt to describe the universe as it actually exists.

Acupuncture works on the biological field of the body. Like a pebble dropped into a still pond, needles inserted into acupuncture points send ripples out as they enter and interact with the field of the body.

Each point has one or more specific effects on some aspect of the body. Some act primarily in the area of the body near the point. Others can have effects on the far side of the body. Still others have a systematic effect on the body. Using the science of Chinese medicine an acupuncturist knows which points to select to achieve a particular effect on the body that will bring it back to a state of health.

Discovered, Not Created

Acupuncture points are a part of our energetic anatomy. They have always been there. Through careful observation and experimentation over thousands of years the acupuncture points were slowly discovered.

Taoist philosophy allowed the ancient Chinese to develop an understanding of the laws of nature and the cosmos. It was through this understanding of the rules of the universe that the system of acupuncture was able to be discovered and decoded. Look for a future article about these concepts as well.

More Articles on Acupuncture

Other articles on this site go into various other aspects about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. One of the most common questions I hear is “Does acupuncture hurt?“, so I wrote that article as my honest response. Qi (pronounced chi) is said to be the energy in the body that acupuncture works on, but many people question, “Is Qi Real?” For short answers to many common questions you might look at my Frequently Asked Questions page.

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