Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM) provides 50% of healthcare in some Asian countries, treating all illness - body, mind, and spirit.
It does't rely on drugs, high-tech or invasive methods, leaving people in the U.S. curious about what it is and how it works.
Herbal therapy and acupuncture are the two treatment methods within Oriental Medicine. Acupuncture consists of the stimulating special points on the skin by a variety of methods [ii]. The special points are located using surface anatomy and a unit of measurement called a "cun" (the width of ones thumb).
Acupuncture needle techniques involves the shallow insertion of thin, supple, and sterile single-use needles that are gently or strongly stimulated then left in place for 10 to 60 minutes. Non-needle techniques: acupressure, electro-current, light, heat (moxa), and bodywork (tuina, cupping, gua sha, tui na).
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture points are poetically described as caves of healing energy potential. What ancient Oriental medicine scholars understood about this potential is being researched & theorized today. Slowly being revealed are the many many ways acupuncture affects anatomy, physiology & chemistry. The manipulation of fascia is only one of the theories on how acupuncture works:
Fascial connective tissue creates meridians/ channels (pathways of least resistance to bioelectric phenomenon). The needle is the perfect tool to reach & manipulate fascia. And the bioelectric phenomenon is that the needle becomes a battery once inserted & warmed to regulate ionic flow & charge balance in the body- Piezoelectric!
Fascia is an all-inclusive body system in itself. A 3-D web of connective tissue extending from head to toe, front to back, interior to exterior... a major anatomic structure that affects us down to the cellular level!
AOM vs. WESTERN MEDICINE
The complex Art & Science of Chinese Medicine has endured for two millennia [iii]. Once mastered, AOM provides an amazing qualitative sensitivity that complements Western medicine’s quantitative specificity in diagnosing and treating disease. In fact, some medical schools and hospitals in China specialize in Integrative Medicine, accepting East & West as different sides of the same coin. Dr Yuning Wu, professor of Integrative Medicine, feels that utilizing the tools of Western and Oriental medicine together results in patient outcomes and/or quality of life that are better than either one could achieve alone [iv].
Based in 5 Essential Substances & the 3 Treasures:
- Qi (metabolic processes of organs and organ systems)
- Jing (genetics, constitution, endowments, regenerative ability)
- Shen (the many aspects of consciousness: personality, soul, spirit)
- Blood & Jinye (thick & thin fluids)
Symbolically caused by:
- Climatic Factors (wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, fire)
- Emotional Factors (joy, anger, melancholy, worry, grief, fear, fright)
Literally caused by:
- Miscellaneous factors (poor diet, bad habits, imbalanced rest vs. exercise, trauma etc.)
- Pestilential factors (febrile, infectious & environmental toxins)
Diagnosed with Four Inspections:
- Inquiring about symptoms
- Evaluating physiognomy (looking, palpating, smelling & listening)
- Inspecting the tongue
- Assessing pulse qualities (e.g. hemodynamics)
Characterized by 8 Principles:
- yin / yang (e.g. anabolic-catabolic balance)
- hot / cold (e.g. acid-base balance),
- interior / exterior (e.g. type of immune response)
- excess / deficient (e.g. severity, chronicity).
Modern Insights on Acupuncture Points:
- Meeting points on connective tissue planes [v]
- Areas with a higher density of microvascular structures, and partial pressure of oxygen [vi]
- Ashi points correspond to muscle trigger points.
- HTJJ points are adjacent to nerve roots that innervate anatomical regions [vii, viii].
- Scalp acupuncture systems correspond to various motor & sensory areas of the brain. Others stimulate limbic (emotional) areas.
- Auricular & hand acupuncture systems are microcosms of the entire body. Auricular points have a direct influence on the neuro- chemical feedback mechanisms in the brain.
Other Theory on How Acupuncture Works:
- Acupuncture points are where qi is or is not happening...the channels are qi, not simply the structures that qi flows through... no scientific physiological referent for the channels/ meridians has ever been found [ix].
- Bio-cybernetics Theory: The course of channel transmission are different from the nervous system, with the speed of transmission slower than the velocity of electrical pulse of nerves [x].
- Bioelectric Axis Theory: Channels & collaterals are pathways for bioelectrical current, and acu points are where these pathways to tissues and organs interface with the surface of the body. Acupuncture points of a person who is ill show changes in electrical resistance, and resting membrane potential which alters cellular processes [x].
- Immunological Theory: Yin vs. Yang is the opposing physiology of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) vs. cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) [x].
- Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control (DNIC) Theory: Acupuncture relieves pain by increasing endorphins & stimulating the DNIC system [x].
- More Theory & Insight: Distribution & Compensation Theory, Threshold Control Theory, Feedback Adaptation Theory, Biological Holographic Theory, Gate Control Theory [x]
[ii] National Institute on Health. (1997). Acupuncture. NIH
Consensus Development Conference Statement no. 107 15(5), 1-34. Retrieved from www.consensus.nih.gov.
[iii] St. John, T., & Sandt, L. (2008). Hepatitis C
choices: Diverse viewpoints and choicesfor your hepatitis C journey (4th ed.).
Caring Ambassadors Program. Retrieved
[iv] Deadman, P., (2012). An Interview with professor Yuning Wu. Journal of Chinese Medicine 100, 21- 27.
[v] Langevin, H., & Yandow, J. (2002). Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. The Anatomical Record (269), 257–265.
[vi] HealthCMI. Retrieved from www.healthcmi.com.
[vii] Wong J. (in press). A manual of neuro-anatomical
acupuncture, East meets West: A Review of TCM with western medicine
[viii] Wong J. (1999). Musculoskeletal disorders. A
Manual of Neuro-anatomical Acupuncture 1. Brookline. MA: Redwing Books.
[ix] Shima, M. & Chac, C. (2001) The channel divergencies; Deeper paths of the web. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press.
[x] Huang, L. (2005). Auricularmedicine. Orlando,
FL: Auricular International Research & Training Center.