Acupuncture point localization varies among acupuncturists
Background: Studies assessing the point-specific effect of acupuncture or the characteristics of acupuncture points (APs) tend to yield inconclusive results. In order to identify a possible confounding factor, we aimed to examine the variability in AP localization by means of a survey. Material and Methods: Attendees of the 14th ICMART (International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques) congress as well as DÄGfA (German Medical Society of Acupuncture) lecturers and students were asked to locate and mark the APs LI 10 and TH 5 on a research assistant's arm. Identified points were transferred into a coordinate system, and the respective bivariate distribution function was calculated. Additionally, participants filled out a questionnaire about their acupuncture education and experience, the acupuncture style and point localization techniques used most frequently, and their estimation of the size of an AP. Results: The areas of the ellipses, theoretically containing 95% of AP localizations, varied between 44.49 and 5.18 cm(2). The largest distance between 2 identified points was 8.45 cm for LI 10 and 5.3 cm for TH 5. Apart from being trained at the same school, no other factor could be identified that determined the variability in AP localization. Conclusion: Our results indicate that congruity of AP localization among experienced acupuncturists might be low. Although there are some limitations to our results, this possible bias should be taken into account when conducting acupuncture trials and interpreting results of previous acupuncture studies.