These are the notes I captured in my basic Acupuncture Techniques classes. Because class content changes from teacher to teacher I have arranged this topically. You will find topical content contained within the linked documents. Each document opens in a new window.

Acupuncture Kit Basics

What you will need for your clinical and acupuncture techniques experience. - Basic Acupuncture Techniques how many needles CAN fit into a shot needle?

Tiny needles, big difference

Basic Acupuncture Techniques Overview

This is the 101 – how to hold the needle, getting Qi (yeah, I know not many people emphasize that anymore, but it’s key in giving an excellent treatment instead of just being a tech who sticks needles in), and the various techniques that acupuncturists use (like cupping, electroacupuncture, etc.) in addition to needles. See Dr. Qiu’s slides too.

Arrival of Qi or Da Qi

Classic TCM stuff to some, nonsense to others, deemed completely unnecessary yet acknowledged by yet another school of thought, the arrival of Qi is what happens after the insertion of the needle. When you insert a needle correctly in the right spot the patient’s Qi comes to the insertion point and does cool stuff. There are specific needle manipulations you can do to help this along.

Cat’s Note: Personally, I believe it happens. I can see it and feel it when it does. I’ve had many patients who experienced a sensation from the insertion point up and down the channel when they are needled. In my own clinical experience I don’t find it necessary to manipulate the needle to force the Qi to arrive. It does it on it’s own even with light or shallow insertions (which is just deep enough for the needle to stand up on its’ own) even though it might take a few minutes to do so. But that’s me – your results may vary. We’re all different with different ways of interacting with Qi, with our patients, and with our needles.

The Excellent Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Before You Needle

Preparing your hands, strengthening your fingers, regulating your own Qi/shen (yes, this is crucial no matter what your increasingly Western-minded teachers might say or how they scoff at the idea of Qi), practicing your needle technique. Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Bleeding or Three Edged Needle Therapy

Bleeding is a powerful technique that can do very cool things. My favorite is a method for relieving a strong headache. This works great when a patient comes into clinic with a bad headache. This happens with migraine patients a lot in my office. They call me with a screaming migraine and their spouse or friend drives them in for a treatment. I bleed at the ear apex until the patient’s headache drops down to about a 2/10 on the pain scale. Then I give them a treatment to keep the headache from coming back. They appreciate the immediate relief.

Cat’s Pre-Needling Qi Regulating Practice

See page 6 and 7 of the notes. Someday this might be a video. Send me a comment below if you’d like to see that happen. I’ll wait anxiously for your requests. 🙂

Clean Needle Exam

Ok, I took it a bunch of years ago, but from what I understand from students it hasn’t changed in format all that much. This will give you the gist, but refer to the most recent Clean Needle Technique documentation for the correct details.

Clean Needle Technique and Needling Safety Practices

Includes all of the fun diseases you can get via needle sticks with used needles. Also see notes for Class 2 where more of Dr. Yuxia Qiu’s wisdom continues. Class 2 notes will also give you the basic idea of how the CNT exam goes.

Not scared enough yet? Continue on to Class 3’s notes for needle accidents such as broken needles, stuck needles, bent needles, patients who faint on you, pneumothorax, acu-shock, and more. Just another fun day at the clinic, folks.

Supplemental slides from Dr. Qiu are here:

Accidents and Safety
Accidents in Acupuncture Treatment
Applying CNT in an Acupuncture Treatment
Preventing Infectious Diseases
CNT Protocols and Principles
Risk Reduction
Sterilizing Instruments
Working in Public Health
Management of Accidents

Contraindications and Precautions in Acupuncture

Points that shouldn’t be needled and times when points shouldn’t be needled. Cautions around certain points. Special considerations apply for pregnant patients – whole books have been written about this, but here’s the gist (page 3).
Dr. Qiu’s slides


This details old school glass cups and fire cupping. This stuff is the bomb, - Basic Acupuncture Techniques pneumatic cupping there are some places that frown upon open flames – like the office I am in – so I use pneumatic cups. Instead of using fire to burn out the oxygen in the cup and thus creating negative pressure that sucks the skin up into the cup, pneumatic cups use a trigger handle to suck the air out of the cup. Same deal, different materials.

Most pneumatic cups are made of plastic. If you choose them wisely, you can get a set with a smooth edge and you can use these for sliding cupping. Personally, I prefer a heavy glass cup and fire cupping for sliding cupping purposes, but it takes practice to get the suction just right. One big downside to plastic pneumatic cups: you can’t really sterilize them without destroying them. Don’t use them for bleeding therapies for this reason – use glass instead.

I recommend Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy by Ilkay Z. Chirali. Good stuff. There are also a couple of free-for-Kindle books about cupping on Amazon you might want to check out. Free is good, but I haven’t read the books, so I can’t vouch for them.

Cutaneous Needle Therapy (aka Plum Blossom, Seven Star, etc) - Basic Acupuncture Techniques plum blossom or seven star needlingThis is a shallow needle technique using a number of needles at once. It’s got a lot of really awesome uses. Something I’ve used it for recently is to help with a dermatitis breakout, using the needle hammer around the edges of the patches to help relieve blood heat. That particular week-long breakout went away the day after I used the Plum Blossom needles on it.
Dr. Qiu’s slides

Electro-acupuncture or E-stim

E-stim units are similar to TENS units, but the electrodes attach to the acupuncture needle instead of to a pad that lays on the skin. There are a bunch of awesome uses for e-stim.
Dr. Qiu has 2 sets of slides on e-stim: Basics, Treatment of Specific Disorders

Gua Sha

An old Chinese folk remedy, this is an excellent thing to use for patients who are just getting a cold or communicable illness. You can use specialized guasha tools or you can use whatever you have handy. I’ve used olive oil and a quarter a time or two when my family was on vacation and someone was starting to get sick. Works just as well as the fancy jade and bone tools.
Dr. Qui’s slides.

History of Acupuncture

How did we get here? Why are we poking these needles in these spots and how did anyone ever figure this out? This is very basic information from Dr. Yuxia Qiu’s slides.

Holding, Inserting, and Withdrawing a Needle

One-handed and two-handed methods for needling, pressing, stretching before inserting, pinching, angles and directions for insertion, and depth for insertions. Also includes methods of withdrawing needles that can be useful. Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Managing Acu-shock

Symptoms, causes, and treatments for acu-shock. And no, I don’t mean electro-acupuncture kind of shock either. See pages 3 and 4 of the notes.

Moxibustion - Basic Acupuncture Techniques direct moxibustion or moxaThis technique is so familiar to acupuncturists that we nicknamed it: moxa. Yet more information on moxa is in this document and includes indirect moxa, moxa boxes, how much to use, and management of accidents.
Dr. Qiu’s slides on the matter are here.

Needle Manipulation Techniques

How and why you manipulate needles after insertion. Page 4 of the document. Dr. Qiu’s slides are here.

Reducing, Reinforcing, and Even Techniques
These are my notes on the subject. There were actually 2 classes on it, so this is a link to the continuation of the subject.
Dr. Qi’s slides are here.

Guidelines for intensity of manipulation, methods for different body constitutions, and different patterns of disease and differentiation.
Also see Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Needle Specifications

Structure and terminologies associated with acupuncture needles, needle specifications and sizes. See Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Needle Retention Times

How long do you keep those puppies in? Depends. Read the information on page 5 for the short answer. And see the last page of Dr. Qiu’s slides.

Pregnant Patients

Man, that’s a big topic. Many schools and practitioners won’t even treat them because of the potential liability. The American Acupuncture Council, the body which provides medical malpractice for most beginning practitioners, won’t cover anything besides basic stuff like treating morning sickness and even then it’s iffy. If you look at slide #3 of this handout you’ll get the very barebones basics of what not to needle on a pregnant patient.

Hint: if you’re treating an American you’re likely to find someone with Liver Qi Stagnation. We usually needle Large Intestine 4 and Liver 3 for this. As a matter of fact, we use them so much in combination we generally refer to them as The Four Gates. But the Four Gates are contraindicated for pregnant patients – Large Intestine 4 can actually stimulate labor because of its’ strong Qi moving abilities. What you can use is what some practitioners call “The Other Four Gates” – Gallbladder 34 and San Jiao (or Triple Burner/Heater)

Study Questions

Basic stuff to know for Acupuncture Techniques.
Basic stuff to know about adjunct therapies (e-stim, cupping, moxa, etc.)


Basic Acupuncture Techniques — 2 Comments

    • This is a true answer, but I’ll warn you right now that it won’t fly in acupuncture school.

      I’d love to show you a video of needling technique for getting da qi, but I don’t actually think “getting the qi” is something we even need to do. Qi is very responsive and pays attention to what is happening in the body. Even palpating too hard will cause Qi to show up, which is why you palpate the channels gently so as not to disturb it. The Qi will come to the needles when it is ready and when it is appropriate for this person. It’s very intelligent.

      I do palpate very gently at the point location and slightly around it to find the depression or the bump where this particular point is located on this person’s body. I feel a little something I can’t even define in my fingertip when I’m on it also. I know other practitioners who feel it in different ways, some who see the points on the skin, one who hears a hum when his finger hits the point. That doesn’t happen on every point for me, but it does on most. This comes with repetition, feeling a lot of channels.

      Finally, if you do use da qi techniques (lifting/thrusting, twirling, scraping, whathaveyou…), the really important part is your intention. You are connecting with the patient’s qi, letting it know you are there to try an help, you are asking it for partnership. Think of it like a partner and it will respond that way.

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