The Science of Acupuncture

New CT scan technology reveals acupuncture points. Click the following to read the story: Acupuncture Point Discovery.

Researchers have discovered how to measure and validate the existence of acupuncture points and their meridians. MRI studies and oxygen sensor studies come from some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Today, I want to start with remarkable research from investigators at one of the most prestigious universities in Korea.

Sungkyunkwan University (Seoul) was founded in 1398. Yes, over 600 years ago! It was recently acquired by the Samsung Group in 1996, which has helped preserve its legacy of excellence with substantial financial support. The university is a leader in many fields including nanotechnology and natural sciences, features a dual degree program with Ohio State University and has a collaborative program with the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan School of Management.

Two researchers from Sungkunkwan Univeristy worked with another researcher from the Department of Chemistry and Nano Science at Ewha Womans University on this ground breaking research. Notably, Ewha Womans University is considered one of the most prestigious schools in Korea and produced Korea’s first female doctor, lawyer, justice on the Constitutional Court and the first female prime minister of Korea.

Why all the fuss about researchers and the schools they hail from? In the many years I have worked in Chinese and Oriental Medicine, I have uniformly come across skepticism and resistance to valuable, peer reviewed research. I want to give a little background before going forward with something as important as this research. For some it seems, no research institute or study is sufficient so long as it says something positive about acupuncture and herbal medicine. Ethnocentrism abound, I wanted to stave off imperious pans decrying putative proofs and to assuage presumptive skepticism and concomitant guetapens. Perhaps establishing the authenticity and seriousness of the institutions from which the research emanates helps equanimity to mollify incredulity and for rapprochement to exist between the skeptic and modern scientists whose works demonstrate the existence of acupuncture points and their functions.

The research from Sungkyunkwan University and Ewha Woman University is entitled Heterogeneity of Skin Surface Oxygen Level of Wrist in Relation to Acupuncture Point.[1] The study used an amperometric oxygen microsensor to detect partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations on the anterior aspect of the left wrist. The researchers concluded that partial oxygen pressure is significantly higher at acupuncture points.

Below are two images from the study measuring the increase of partial oxygen pressure combined with an overlay of the local acupuncture point locations. The images are representative of typical readings found in the study and remarkably map the Lung Hand Taiyin, Pericardium Hand Jueyin and Heart Shaoyin channels and their associated local points. Depicted are P7 and P6 clearly showing high oxygen pressure levels. The same is true for LU9, LU8, HT7, HT6, HT5 and HT4. Note that non-acupuncture point regions do not show higher oxygen pressure levels. These measurements are not needled points but are natural resting states of acupuncture points absent stimulation. This biomedical research gives us insight into the structural makeup of acupuncture points. This type of basic research is not isolated and numerous studies from multitudes of the top research centers and universities demonstrate specific properties and physiological actions of acupuncture points.

Wrist acupuncture points including the Peridcardium channel and Lung channel.  (Seen Above)

The nexus of most research on the physical existence of acupuncture points and acupuncture meridians is hemodynamic, MRI, oxygen pressure, histological, physiological, clinical and electroconductivity research. Researchers at the University of California School of Medicine (Irvine, California) noted, “Recent evidence shows that stimulation of different points on the body causes distinct responses in hemodynamic, fMRI and central neural electrophysiological responses.” The investigators reviewed MRI results and noted that “stimulation of different sets of acupoints leads to disease-specific neuronal responses, even when acupoints are located within the same spinal segment.” This summarizes research in the vanguard of technical documentation on acupuncture.[2][3]

University of California researchers Choi, Jiang and Longhurst note of acupuncture, “hemodynamic, functional magnetic resonance imaging and neurophysiological studies evaluating the responses to stimulation of multiple points on the body surface have shown that point-specific actions are present.”[4] Naturally, they are running into the difficulty of AhShi points and their specific actions. Perhaps they will discover new effective actions for AhShi points as a result of basic research. Other research shows point specificity in brain physiology and reflects the overall direction of scientific investigation in the field of acupuncture.

The Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging featured research on the neurophysiological effects of acupuncture points using MRI imaging noting that acupoint GB40 stimulation enhanced “connectivity between the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and anterior insula.” The investigators concluded, “The current study demonstrates that acupuncture at different acupoints could exert different modulatory effects on RSNs. Our findings may help to understand the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying acupuncture specificity.”[5] Here, the researchers have validated acupuncture point specificity and suggest a possible physiological model of understanding acupuncture points.

HRV (Heart Rate Variability) is a measure of cardiovascular health. One study notes that, “HRV changes significantly during auricular acupuncture….” This research also notes that, “HRV total increases during auricular acupuncture….”[6] Another related study from the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience notes that acupuncture “causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.” These are but two examples of investigations citing specific medicinal actions of specific acupuncture points and is in no way exhaustive of the vast body of research demonstrating acupuncture point specificity for the treatment of hypertension, atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular disorders.[7] Investigators from the University of California (Los Angeles and Irvine) “have shown that electroacupuncture stimulation activates neurons” in specific brain regions thereby reducing hypertension.[8]

Dr. Berman, M.D. served as a lead researcher in a University of Maryland School of Medicine investigation published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine. The research concludes that, “Acupuncture seems to provide improvement in function and pain relief as an adjunctive therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee when compared with credible sham acupuncture and education control groups.”[9] What is interesting in this clinical trial is that it was an early study showing that sham acupuncture was not as effective as verum acupuncture. The study sought to isolate and address the placebo effect and found that it is not responsible for the medical benefits associated with acupuncture therapy. There are many papers showing the specific medical benefits of acupuncture on internal organs, tissues and towards the resolution of specific ailments. I thought I would highlight this investigation given its historical value.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity initially did not catch on and was ridiculed before acceptance. The same is true for much of medicine both old and new. People’s presuppositions often circumvent equanimity and receptiveness to new insights. Backing up a bit, one might have thought that a basic neurologic test for the Babinski Sign was pure fiction. It may have seemed logical and self-evident that rubbing someone’s foot and looking for dorsiflexion of the great toe and fanning of the other toes could not possibly indicate brain or spinal cord damage. Yet, the great French neurologist of Polish origin, Babinski, discovered that this plantar reflex identifies central nervous system damage, which is now an accepted medical reality by medical doctors and is an effective diagnostic tool for central nervous system damage.

Acupuncturists and herbalists have faced acrimonious traducements and caluminiations towards substantiated supportive research. Often there is a predilection towards rejecting the efficacy of Chinese and Oriental Medicine that trumps the realities of hard evidence and smacks of ethnocentrism. The Flat Earth Society felt the same way about the infidels suggesting that the earth is round. Galileo had his fair share of troubles too. It cannot be underestimated how high the stakes really are for patient care and beneficial patient outcomes. At risk is non-integration of cost-effective medicine that roots out the source of suffering by healing illness. A time honored traditional clinical medicine history combined with supportive modern research data suggests that acupuncture is an effective modality of therapeutic care. Acupuncture seems impossible? Recall the words of Mark Twain, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

It may appear to some that it is self-evident and logical that acupuncture points exist only as part of some sort of chimerical hermeneutic system. However, extensive research has already been conducted at major universities worldwide demonstrating not only that acupuncture points and meridians exist but also how they physiologically function. There is a resistance to an enormous body of research. Cloaked in veil of mature skepticism and realism, naysayers grasp at piecemeal attack pieces to fight off what has already been measured, documented and peer reviewed both in individual studies and large scale meta-analyses. I suggest an era of open-mindedness towards the modern research documenting the efficacy of Chinese and Oriental medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Footnotes:
[1] Minyoung Hong, Sarah S. Park, Yejin Ha, et al., “Heterogeneity of Skin Surface Oxygen Level of Wrist in Relation to Acupuncture Point,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 106762, 7 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/10a6762.
[2] Point specificity in acupuncture. Chin Med. 2012 Feb 28;7:4. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-7-4. Choi EM, Jiang F, Longhurst JC.
[3] Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine CA 92697-4075, USA.
[4] Point specificity in acupuncture. Chin Med. 2012 Feb 28;7:4. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-7-4. Choi EM, Jiang F, Longhurst JC.
[5] Zhong, C., Bai, L., Dai, R., Xue, T., Wang, H., Feng, Y., Liu, Z., You, Y., Chen, S. and Tian, J. (2011), Modulatory effects of acupuncture on resting-state networks: A functional MRI study combining independent component analysis and multivariate granger causality analysis. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
[6] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 817378, 7 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/817378. Sino-European Transcontinental Basic and Clinical High-Tech Acupuncture Studies—Part 1: Auricular Acupuncture Increases Heart Rate Variability in Anesthetized Rats. Xin-Yan Gao, Kun Liu, Bing Zhu and Gerhard Litscher.
[7] Kurono Y, Minagawa M, Ishigami T, Yamada A, Kakamu T, Hayano J. Auton Neurosci. Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. Epub 2011 Jan 7.
[8] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 878673, 9 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/878673. Neuroendocrine Mechanisms of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Hypertension. Wei Zhou and John C. Longhurst. Department of Anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Department of Medicine, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA.
[9] Ann Intern Med, Berman, Lixing, Lagenberg, Lee, Gilpin, Hochberg. 2004; 141:901-910.

11 Reasons to Try Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

  1. It’s customized to fit you and your needs.

Two people might come in with knee pain on the same day, but won’t receive a cookie cutter treatment.  Factors such as lifestyle, digestion, the appearance of your tongue, your energy level, and the sound of your voice factor in to determining the treatment protocol specific to you and your needs.  

In addition to acupuncture, we offer a variety of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments including cupping, gua sha, and Tui Na, as well as massage therapy.  This allows you to get maximum benefit from one visit. 

2)      Even Needlephobes Become Loyal Converts

New client often ask if it will hurt, and many mention a fear of needles.  The fine, sterile needles used in acupuncture are about a tenth the size of a hypodermic needle.  You’ll feel them, sure, but most people describe feeling a pressure, and rarely even feel discomfort.  In fact, we have several clients who feel so relaxed during treatments that they doze off.  Michele Pfeiffer once said that the anticipation of turning 50 was much worse than the actual event.  Many people, even those who don’t like needles, feel the same way and agree that getting past chronic pain, nausea, or illness worth 30 minutes with needles?   

3)      It’s non-invasive.
Unlike surgeries, acupuncture does not cause scar tissue.  There’s no need for anesthesia, or even bandages.  The risk of infection is minimal.  Some clients experience a bit of soreness from the release of lactic acid after an acupuncture session, but it’s more like an intense workout than recovery post-surgery.  In fact, many people are turning to us for cosmetic acupuncture to improve skin tone and decrease wrinkles as an alternative to plastic surgery and injections. 

4)      It treats the problem, not just the symptoms.
Consider infertility, for example.  IVF and hormone therapies can be effective, but they are invasive and disruptive to life, not to mention expensive.  They can help with conception, but they don’t necessarily treat the underlying challenges to conception.  We consider the whole body, and look at the conditions within the male and female body that are making it hard to get pregnant.  Stress levels, digestion, sleep quality, and more all affect reproductive health.  Acupuncture, sometimes in conjunction with herbal remedies, can be highly effective in restoring the body to balance so it can conceive and foster a healthy pregnancy (at a fraction of the cost).  

5)      Its side effects are helpful, not harmful.
Numerous individuals come in for treatment of a specific condition, such as high blood pressure, and find that acupuncture sessions improve their stress level, sleep, overall mood, and digestion also.  Medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, and more can get good results – for treating their target conditions.  They also make the body work incredibly hard to process the foreign substance, and over time can cause damage to the liver and other vital organs, not to mention other side effects.  One of the most common types of overdoses seen in hospitals is over the counter pain medicine.

6)      It works.
Acupuncture has been around since before recorded history.  That’s why it’s difficult to determine if it’s 2,500 years old, 4,000 years old, or more.  Tens of billions of people have used it over the years.  It isn’t as familiar in the US, because we only really started using it here in the 1970s.  Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world.  Nothing gets that kind of staying power if it doesn’t work.

7)      It’s your time and money – we respect that
Your health is your most important resource, and our job is helping you reach your wellness goals.  You deserve to have someone focus their attention on you for long enough that you get all of your questions answered and receive the treatment that you require.  We reserve at least 60 minutes for each session to make sure you get the time you need.

There are no silver bullets in life.  Healing takes time. You and your health are our priority.  We offer acupuncture, massage therapy, and various forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and will schedule enough time to make sure you get all of the treatments that you need. 

8)      It isn’t all in your head.
We get a lot of calls from people who say “I’ve tried everything else,” or “They say it’s XYZ, but I just don’t think so,” or even “I’ve had tons of tests and they’re all inconclusive, but I know something is wrong.”  You know your body and when something is off, but the symptoms you have might not be readily diagnosed with Western medicine.  This is not a criticism of Western medicine, which certainly has its place.  Traditional Chinese Medicine can effectively treat syndromes and symptoms that aren’t clearly defined by Western standards.

9)      It’s a great preventative treatment, too.
Every so often, a client calls and asks for a “general tune up”.  The acupuncture treatments they received several months ago fixed their neck or back pain, but they generally feel out of sorts, or off-balance.  Acupuncture is the practice of restoring balance in your body.  It increases circulation, improves immunity, and much more.

 

10)   It’s more affordable than you think.
We’re so used to having insurance cover our medical expenses that when we’re asked to pay for care out of pocket, it feels expensive.  Minor surgeries cost at least $10,000, and major operations can easily be ten times that.  A year’s worth of cholesterol or blood pressure medication can cost over $1,000 out of pocket, even if you have insurance.  Many of those require other medications to counteract the side effects, too.  Certain surgeries and medications can be avoided with lifestyle changes that include preventative care. 

At Affinity Acupuncture, we charge $75 per treatment, which can often be paid for with an HSA or reimbursed by insurance.  We also have packages and monthly membership programs available.  Certain procedures, such as face lifts and Botox injections, are not covered by insurance.  Our Cosmetic Acupuncture regimen is a fraction of the price without the side effects.  

11)   It’s More Than a Smokescreen
Acupuncture really only started to become popular in the US in the 1970s, and because it’s so new here, the practice has its fair share of critics.  Chiropractic work and yoga went through the same thing.  But roughly two billion people around the world currently use acupuncture as their primary form of medicine.  Insurance companies are extending coverage to acupuncture in their range of covered services, and an increasing number of doctors and nurses are realizing the “pill for every ill” approach to medicine is outdated.  We receive numerous referrals from physicians who realize healthcare can be improved by treating the whole person with a variety of modalities. 

No Doubt About It….

Summer is here.  It’s not too late to get relief from seasonal allergies, tone that tummy, shed that extra winter weight, or get rid of fine lines and wrinkles before family weddings. 

That’s right, acupuncture can help relieve sinus pressure, and we have a variety of herbal supplements in capsule form that help increase the body’s tolerance to external irritants. 

William recently attended advanced training in the Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture protocol, which can help tone the tummy and take years off the face – no scalpels or Botox. Call us at 615-939-2787 to learn about our limited time special pricing. 

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture

By now, you’ve heard that acupuncture can do a lot to help you feel better. Did you know that it can help you look better, too? Over time, we don’t always look as vivacious as we feel. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture, sometimes called Cosmetic Acupuncture or the Acupuncture Face Lift, is an affordable, natural way to boost your body’s ability to put your best face forward. 

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture offers the following benefits:

  • Boosts natural production of collagen

  • Improves skin tone and luster

  • Removes of toxins and dead skin cells

  • Increases circulation of blood, oxygen, and nutrients

  • Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles

  • Enhances and rejuvenates lips

  • Resolves underlying factors that contribute to the aging process

And treats the following areas:

  • Dry, oily, dull complexion

  • Blotchy or red skin tone

  • Facial acne, rosaccia, and eczema

  • Wrinkles

  • Laugh lines

  • Frown lines

  • Crow’s feet

  • Drooping jaw line

  • Bunny lines

  • Drooping eye lids/brow

  • Under-eye circles and bagginess

  • Age spots

At Affinity Acupuncture, we recommend 12 treatments (2 times per week for 6 weeks) for optimal results. Our Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture Package, at a cost of $720, offers $180 savings over full priced treatments, and is significantly less than the cost of Botox or plastic surgery. We also offer a Monthly Membership Program for $59 per month, which includes one acupuncture session or massage. Additional visits in that 30 day period are reduced to $49. To learn more about our Monthly Membership Program, please visit https://www.affinityacupuncture.com/membership-benefits. 

True beauty comes from within. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture brings your body’s true beauty to the surface – naturally.