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Scientific evidence for acupuncture points

10 November 2014

There has been some exciting research done recently into the anatomical structure of acupuncture points, adding to the pool of research confirming the existence of acupuncture points and expanding the bio-medical understanding of how acupuncture works.

A new study, published by the Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, used state-of-the-art CT imaging to produce 3D scans of the common acupuncture points Zusanli (ST36) and Shangjuxu (ST37) to compare those tissues against those of other areas with no acupuncture points. (1)

The scans showed clear differences between the acupuncture point and non-acupuncture point anatomical structures.

They found the acupuncture points to have a higher density of micro-vessels and to contain a large amount of involuted microvascular structures. The non-acupuncture points did not exhibit these properties. Their microvascular structure was relatively simple and flat.

This is not the first study to provide evidence for the location and existence of acupuncture points. The above study builds upon another from 2011, using similar imaging on the acupuncture points Zusanli (ST36) and Zhongji (CV3) of rabbits. (2)

The authors reported that they found an accumulation of microvessels at each acupuncture point region. Images of the surrounding tissues did not show such kinds of structure.

Another interesting study researched partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations over the front (palm) surface of the wrist. (3)

Acupuncture point imaging

The authors reported higher partial oxygen values in close proximity to the position of acupuncture points. The images clearly map the points of the Lung, Pericardium, and Heart acupuncture channels which traverse this area. (See image above)

Such studies demonstrate that acupuncture points and channels are scientifically measurable phenomena. These studies are of acupuncture points “at rest”, that is, not during or following the stimulation of an acupuncture treatment. They provide important information for our future understanding of the physiological roles of acupuncture points.


1. Liu, C., Wang, X., Xu, H., Liu, F., Dang, R., Zhang, D., Zhang, X., Xie, H. and Xiao, T. X-ray phase-contrast CT imaging of the acupoints based on synchrotron radiation. Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena 2013

2. Zhang, D., Yan, X., Zhang, X., Lui, C., Dang, R., Xiao, T. and Zui, P. Synchrotron radiation phase-contrast X-ray CT imaging of acupuncture points. Springer-Verlag 2011

3. Hong, M., Park, S., Ha, Y., Lee, J., Yoo, K., Jhon, G., Suh, M. and Lee, Y. Heterogeneity of skin surface oxygen level of wrist in relation to acupuncture point. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012