Tonification Squared 5/5 (45)

Today I’d like to address a question I’m often asked about the appropriate way to needle the acupuncture points that are suggested by the AcuGraph system. If you don’t use needles in your practice, this information is equally applicable to laser, electricity, or whatever treatment modality you use.

The question usually is phrased something like this: “How do I know which points to tonify and which points to sedate?”


“I understand that I should tonify a tonification point and sedate a sedation point, but what should I do with Luo Connecting points?”

No matter how it’s phrased, it really comes down to the question of proper needling technique. needling

I know there are a number of different schools of thought about how points ought to be needled. Some of the more popular are:

  • Use gold needles to tonify and silver needles to sedate
  • Spin the needle counter-clockwise to tonify and clockwise to sedate (or vice versa)
  • You must retain the needle for exactly 32 minutes for it to be effective
  • The needle must be angled with the chi flow to tonify and against the chi flow to sedate
  • Plunge the needle in and out exactly seven times or the treatment won’t work!

And so on. Then, of course, there are the super complicated combination techniques. “If the point is below the waist, and the patient is female, and you are treating the extremity on the left side, turn the needle clockwise exactly seven times, then retain it for 11 minutes, but only if it’s Spring and your needle is gold and your patient is facing North.”

Yes, I’ve actually heard some that complicated.

I refer to all of the above as “designer” needling techniques. I’m not trying to disparage all these special techniques; I know many of them are extremely valid and effective. But I want to give you another way to look at the points and their proper treatment.

Nearly all the points recommended in AcuGraph are included in a special set of points referred to by various names including Antique Points, Five Shu Points, Command Points, Transporting Points, or Five Element Points. All located at or below the knees or elbows, these points have special energetic properties and functions related to the subcategory into which they fit. For example, using the water metaphor, these points are classified as well, spring, stream, river and sea points, in reference to the relative amount and velocity of chi flow at each point.

Additionally, some of these points are classified as tonification and sedation points, based on their overall effect on the channel to which they belong.

But here (pardon the pun) is the point:

I think of these points like I think of light switches. If there’s a light switch on the wall and you want light, you simply flip the switch and you get light. We can argue about whether you flip the switch with your finger or thumb, whether you do it slowly or quickly, whether you flip it just once or many times, and which direction you should face while flipping. But the end result will always be the same. If you flip the switch, you’ll get light. If you don’t you won’t.

Similarly, if you activate a tonification point, it will tonify the whole channel. You don’t have to do any particularly special technique designed to “tonify” the tonification point. You merely need to activate it. The same applies to sedation points and the other points used in AcuGraph. In all cases, you simply need to activate the point and it will have the appropriate effect, based on its energetic function.

Now, how you choose to activate the point is up to you. When needling, my personal preference is to insert the needle for about 20 minutes and manipulate until the patient experiences the arrival of the chi. When the chi has arrived, I know the point is activated, and I remove the needle.

I know this might not satisfy those Zang-Fu diagnosticians who love designer needling techniques. But we’re not working in the Zang-Fu world when we treat these antique points. We’re reaching for something much deeper and more primal at the basic energetic level.

Trust the points, trust their functions, and let the chi do the rest.

And drop me a comment to let me know how you like to needle.

Until next week—

Dr. Adrian Larsen

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Dr. Adrian Larsen

Adrian P. Larsen, D.C., F.A.S.A., C.Ac. Dr. Larsen is President of Miridia Technology Inc., and one of the developers of the AcuGraph Digital Meridian Imaging system. He currently divides his time between research, product development, and teaching. Dr. Larsen also holds certifications in Applied Kinesiology and CPK, and has specialized training in SOT and craniopathy. He, his wife, and 7 children reside in Meridian, Idaho.

7 Replies to “Tonification Squared

  1. I agree perfectly with your article, and my personnel experience bears out what you say.
    Many chinese acupuncturers however, talk about special needling techniques, but for my part, the essential thing is to obtain the QI sensation and the patient’s body will know what to do with it (disperse or tonify).

  2. Nice article. The approach I use is to locate the points using Dr. Paul Nogier’s VAS (Vascular Autonomic Signal) pulse reading system. This technique can also tell the precise color or wavelength of light that resonates with and balances the point. Typical color point tools such as Mandel’s Colorpuncture or the Lumilight system can be used. The VAS also signals when the point has “got” the energetic message. With such light pen points it is usually only a couple minutes until you are ready to go onto the next point.

    William Croft
    Lightfield Systems

  3. are you saying that you wait 20 minutes from needle insertion to begin to get deqi? and then when deqi has happened ,you remove the needle? My method is to get deqi upon inserting the needle and then let 20 mins. pass before removal.

    1. Great question. I usually leave the needles inserted for several minutes and then manipulate to get deqi. I then leave them in for the balance of the 20 minutes.

  4. As refers to your sample graph, what I picked up initially was the same issue, the ability to absorb and eliminate, which suggests a hierachy, suggested by the weak pericardium suggesting issues of worry associated with decreased stomach issue as well as issues with the colon. I think an emotional profile would be usefull. Also color theraphy or the use of colored needles might be a usefull addition to get the energies moving. Additional points can be added by noting the micro-meridian system ( ie Korean) and its relationship to the major stuctures in the nervous system which are represented by fingerpoints.

  5. Have you found using a device like the Stimplus Pro to generate the same effectiveness on the body points. I purchased it for auriculotherapy use, but have found it to be fantastic for symptomatic pain relief and the body, but am experimenting with using is as a replacement for needles in some conditions. Any suggestions?

    1. Yes, I have indeed found the StimPlus Pro very useful for body points. I especially like the locate feature that helps me find the exact electrical location of the point for treatment.

So, what do you think about it?