When using acupuncture to treat patients with complex, multi-pattern presentations, I prefer to use contralateral circuit needling. This is because I can address most, if not of all the symptoms and patterns in a holistic way and with fewer needles. It’s like “feeding three birds with one crumb” or finding one herb that treats three or four different patterns simultaneously. Complicated cases demand careful and thoughtful treatment planning and point selection. When the selected points are the correct, appropriate ones, and the point combinations are the most elegant for a given group of disharmony patterns, setting them up in a perfectly balanced contralateral sequence frequently expedites a breakthrough! When a patient experiences this major shift towards harmony and the alleviation of his or her symptoms, he or she is often inspired to return and commit to further healing work with acupuncture.

Contralateral circuit needling strategies make use of points on the corresponding but opposite side of the body from the affected area of pain or dysfunction. This is in contrast to unilateral treatment — treating the same side of the body as the affected area and bilateral needling — using the same points on both sides of the same meridians in a symmetrical, geometric way. Contralateral treatments make use of the transport points of the extremities (the Shu points and Five Phase points) and the other power points: Yuan-Source, Luo- Connecting, Xi-Cleft Points and the Confluent Points of the 8 Extraordinary Vessels.

Contralateral needling also takes into account the directions of yinyang Qi flow for organ meridians: upwards for Yin meridians and downwards for the Yang meridians (viewing the body in the correct Chinese anatomical position with arms held overhead, thumbs positioned medially
like the toes). As an example of contralateral treatment, if there is a painful case of frozen shoulder with a strong stabbing pain on the left LI 15 (Jianyu) point, I would look for a corresponding ashi pain point on the opposite LI 15 area and treat there instead of the left (affected) side. However, I mostly prefer to go instead to the anatomically analogous area at or near the right St. 31 (Biguan) on the opposite side. This contralateral technique is called mirroring: the right hip mirrors the left shoulder like the right knee mirrors the left elbow. Then I’d be using more opposites (arm/leg, left/right) and thus more opposition and “friction” to trigger an energy and myofascial release. I’d use a draining (xie fa) technique on the right St 31 to release and relieve the left LI 15 pain. In this example, the site of pain is on the Yangming thus I’m using both arm and opposite leg yangming circuit to treat the painful frozen left shoulder and release the chronic holding pattern found in the rotator cuff muscles or at the Biceps tendon on the left side arm yangming.