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Distal Points: A needle in your foot to treat your back

Distal needling: needling a point that is far away from the affected area of the body.

Community acupuncture treatments are performed in reclining chairs, limiting the areas of the body that can be treated, such as the back.

With lower back pain being one of the most common conditions treated by acupuncturists, how can it be treated in the community clinic?

With distal acupuncture points.

These are the points that people talk about when they say"I had acupuncture for my headache and they stuck them all over the place - in my toes, legs and hands!"

Distal Points

Distal points are located on areas of the body that are far away from the local site of the condition. They are used for all sorts of conditions - in fact they're used to treat most conditions - it's just that you will usually receive local points in the same treatment too. From headaches to lower back pain, eye problems and neck pain, distal points in the arms and legs can be used.

So how do they work?

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of acupuncture, the body is viewed as an interwoven web that is organized into channels/meridians. The channels are connected to the internal organs and encompass the muscles and nerve pathways. Meridians generally follow fascial pathways (fascia is the sinewy 'glad wrap' that wraps around the muscles), and they allow Qi to move smoothly through the body.

The channels run from the finger tips and toes to the chest and head, creating linear connections to seemingly unassociated areas of the body. This is where the distal points come in to play.

Distal points are located from the knees and ankles to the hands and feet. The nerves become more superficial at these areas, making them more sensitive to treatment. Like throwing a stone in a pond, needling these points result in a ripple through the channel, modulating pain and releasing pain relieving chemicals into the body.


Lower back and neck

The Bladder channel starts at the eyes, goes over the top of the head, all the way down each side of the spine, through the hamstrings, calf muscles, and around the outside of the ankle to the little toe.

Bladder 60: This point is indicated for acute lumbar pain, headache, neck and ankle stiffness. It clears heat (inflammation) from the channel, relaxes the sinews (muscle and fascia), and removes obstructions from the meridian (stuck qi).

Bladder 62: Similar to Bl 60, this point is great for lumbar pain, neck pain and headaches.


Neck and Shoulders

The Small Intestine channel runs from the little finger, along the edge of the arm, over the point of the elbow, shoulder blade, neck, side of the head and to the eye.

Si 7: Good for stiff necks, (particularly at the onset of a cold/flu) and headaches

Si 3: Relieves pain through the whole channel - the shoulder blade, neck and head. And its great for the lower back when used with Bl 62.


So if you didn't think you could get acupuncture for you back in a chair, well now you know you can! And the best part? Its affordable!


1. Deadman, P. & Al-Khafaji, M. (2007). A manual of acupuncture (2nd ed.). East Sussex: Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications.

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