I remember clearly being told by J R Worsley as a student that the most important reason for marking a point before needling is so that you know exactly where not to needle the next time when your first needle has not found the point. I always liked that. It made me more relaxed about my point location, because it somehow assumed that more than one needling would quite often be needed before we actually got the point. I also remember him telling us that it didn’t matter how often we needled before we found a point. The important thing was to find it eventually rather than worrying how long it took us to find it. It is quite common for me to needle two or three times even now, and I don’t find this at all odd. Instead, I am rather surprised when my needle accurately finds this infinitesimally small location first time.
If you are not sure where the AEPs (back shu points) are (and we all know how difficult backs can be), then, to be on the safe side when you are doing an AE drain, place needles down the Inner Bladder line not just where you think the yin AEPs are, but on points above and below these. In this way you cover all eventualities. It’s far better to accept that locating points on the back is always difficult than to pretend that it’s easy and miss the points for something as important as an AE drain.
Marking points is also important for another reason. It is good to get a view of the line of the meridian, rather than thinking of individual points in isolation. If you mark some part of the meridian line to help you orientate yourself, this provides you with a grid which can be seen when you stand back from the body. You will find that a wrong location often leaps out at you when seen from a distance in this way. For example, the three important upper Outer Bladder points, III 37 – 39 (42 - 44), can then be seen to be too low or too high, or it will become obvious that IV 24 (Ki 24) is marked at the wrong level, often too high on the chest in women, possibly because practitioners hesitate to ask their female patients to undo their bras to find this point.
Of course people reading this may say that we should not needle through points marked with a pen from a hygiene point of view, (though does anybody actually know anyone of the many thousands of patients where points have become infected through doing this?). Nonetheless, good practice in this country at least dictates that points should be marked with a small circle and the needle placed inside the circle. They can also be marked with a surgical pen, although these markings are difficult to remove and this should certainly not be done on the face.
We should always be prepared to use whatever aids we can to find points accurately and not be ashamed to do so. I certainly am not, and will continue to mark all points. I find it also concentrates my mind, as though the mere act of marking the point is already focusing my energy at that one spot.