Acupuncture is an art, not a science. As such, all acupuncturists work just a little differently from one another. It’s been said that we acupuncturists have a relationship with certain points, and it’s true that I have certain favorite acupuncture points that I tend to use more than others.
There is one point, however, that almost all acupuncturists use a lot. It’s called Large Intestine 4 (LI 4), because it’s the fourth point on the Large Intestine energetic pathway. It’s also called Hegu in Chinese, which translates into something like Joining Valley or Uniting Valley.
So why do acupuncturists use this point so much, why should you care, and what does it do for your…um large intestine? Well, acupuncturists use LI 4 a lot because it does so many things. You should care, because it’s an effective acupressure point, so you can use it yourself. And finally, it can affect your large intestine, but that’s not its main purpose.
Good health in Chinese medicine is based upon your having abundant energy; and that energy must move freely throughout your body. If your energy doesn’t flow smoothly, it creates blockages and causes symptoms such as pain, constipation, depression, and headaches. LI 4 has perhaps the most moving properties than any other acupuncture point on your body. It directs your energy upward and outward, and can be used for the following purposes:
Pain relief. In Chinese medicine by definition, pain is a blockage. LI 4 is commonly used for pain relief, usually combined with a point or two near the location of the pain.
Colds and flu. Because LI 4 moves energy upward and outward, it can be used to relieve the symptoms of the common cold or flu, with chills and fever. LI 4 is also used to strengthen your protective bubble of immunity. In both cases, it may be paired with an acupuncture point on the Lung pathway, as your lungs and respiratory system are almost always affected when you have a cold or the flu.
Head, neck, and throat symptoms. Again, due to its action to move upward and outward, LI 4 is a great choice for symptoms such as headache, toothache, sore throat, neck pain, and tooth clenching.
LI 4 clears heat. That’s right, if you’re having hot flashes, night sweats, thirst, fevers, inflammation, or any other kind of heat, LI 4 is a good choice.
Diarrhea or constipation. Because it’s on the Large Intestine pathway, LI 4 can be used for bowel issues. However, it’s located on the upper body and is not as strongly effective for these symptoms as lower body points. When using LI 4 for diarrhea or constipation, it should be combined with local abdominal points and points on your leg.
LI 4 is located on your hand in the webbing between your thumb and index finger. The easiest way to find it is to make a fist with your thumb around the base of your index finger. You will see that doing so will create a little bulge in the muscle. LI 4 is located at the highest point of that bulge, right at the end of the crease. You’ll know you have the right spot if when you apply pressure, you feel a tender distending sensation deep in the muscle. For acupressure, simply stimulate the point by squeezing or pressing for two or three minutes.
LI 4 is a very strong point, and when needled, it can create a variety of sensations. Most commonly, patients describe the sensation as distending, but some also feel a “catching” sensation as the muscle at that point grabs the acupuncture needle. Because of its strong moving properties, LI 4 should not be used on pregnant women.
As an acupuncturist, I have a tool box full of hundreds of acupuncture points. However, for one reason or another, LI 4 is one of the points I use most frequently.