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.

[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.

Exciting News

Affinity Acupuncture is thrilled with the great results so many clients have received with our fertility and facial rejuvenation treatments.  This weekend, William is traveling to Chicago for advanced training in the Mei-Zen techniques for face and neck cosmetic acupuncture, as well as infertility and obesity.

If you’re ready to take the next steps in looking and feeling younger, boosting your metabolism, and/or welcoming a new addition to your family, call us today to set up your appointment. We can be reached at 615-939-2787. Online scheduling is available through our website. 

Celebrating Three Years

During our first three years, we have truly enjoyed working with so many in the Nashville area to achieve their health care goals.  Every time a client leaves with less pain, or experiences better sleep or digestion, we remember exactly why we opened Affinity Acupuncture in the first place.  We are thrilled with the great results that so many of you are getting with facial rejuvenation acupuncture, and look forward to celebrating with many more of you after successful fertility treatments.  Your referrals and reviews honor us, and we look forward to many years to come.  

For those of you curious about trying acupuncture or dry needling for the first time, we are offering a limited time Anniversary Special for new clients – just $49 for your first visit.  We hope to help you reach the same success that so many others have found.  Call us at 615-939-2787 with any questions that you have about acupuncture, and to schedule your first appointment.  Be sure to mention this promotion when you do.  We look forward to seeing you soon. 

Help the Body Without Hurting the Wallet

Looking to help your body without causing a lot of hurt to your wallet? Affinity Acupuncture has treatment packages available – 5 acupuncture sessions for $325 or 10 acupuncture sessions for $600. That’s a savings of 20% off standard rates. If you’re interested in learning more about how acupuncture can help you, call 615-939-2787 today. 

Yahoo News – Beauty Benefits of Acupuncture

Yahoo News – Beauty Benefits of Acupuncture

Allie Flinn
December 2, 2014

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to things like acupuncture. I’d rather deal with headaches and stress by popping a couple of Aleve or working my way through a heart-pounding Crossfit workout than “focusing on my breathing” or trying “healing yoga.” But, could taking a more rounded and holistic approach be the way to go? 

I talked to Dr. John J. Kim, L.Ac., O.M.D., founder of ReNuMi Wellness Center and Mila Alexandra Mintsis, licensed acupuncturist at Shift Integrative Medicine on all things acupuncture. It turns out, those little needles can solve a lot more of life’s little dilemmas than ibuprofen can, like acne and wrinkles. Consider this your non-new age-y guide to the beauty benefits of sticking needles in your skin.

“Acupuncture helps energy flow through our body through a network of meridians,” says Kim. Think of meridians like blood vessels that connect acupuncture points to each other. Only instead of carrying blood, these channels carry qi (energy). When we’re stressed, these pathways become blocked; acupuncture needles stimulate points along the meridian, and help open them up. 

To zap stress, needles are most commonly placed in the hands and feet. For me, it was the needle placed between my thumb and forefinger that had an immediate, just-drank-a-glass-of-warm-milk effect. 

To ease stress long-term, Kim recommends a course of acupuncture twice a week for six to eight weeks. This gives the treatment time to help regulate body temperature, improve blood circulation and help you sleep better (all things that lead to reduced stress). Though it may seem counterintuitive if you’re needle-phobic, even the treatment itself is relaxing (just close your eyes). Kim says that a lot of times, people will fall asleep while they’re on the table.

Needles For: Banishing Pesky Pimples

Clearly, acupuncture isn’t our go-to method for clearing up acne (hello, face full of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid). But Mintsis argues that topical remedies treat only the outward appearance instead of what’s going on internally. “Acne is usually an outward manifestation of an internal imbalance,” she says. When you fix that, you also quash future breakouts. 

Because acupuncture addresses the root of one’s acne problem, such as digestive imbalances or a slow-moving lymphatic system, treatment varies from person to person. Mintis says that the tongue and pulse are used to determine a course of treatment and the placement of the needles. “Dietary changes, herbs and essential oils would be an additional important component of treatment,” she adds. She recommends 12 sessions for those looking to clear up their acne.

Needles For: Glowy Skin and Fewer Wrinkles

“Acupuncture has been used to improve physical appearance for thousands of years,” says Mintsis. It works by creating a positive microtrauma in the skin (similar to the tears that happen to your muscles during exercise), which Mintsis says is thought to “stimulate fibroblasts and increase collagen production,” meaning, you can see improved skin tone, diminished wrinkles and fine lines, a decrease in sagging skin and a youthful glow.

Mintsis says that acupuncture is unique in that it also addresses imbalances in the body that results in puffiness or chronically dry skin, which is essential for long-lasting results.

Acupuncture facial rejuvenation, as the process is called, involves placing small, hair-thin needles along certain points on the body, head and face.

Unlike Botox or invasive procedures, cosmetic acupuncture has no side effects. This treatment plan involves ten sessions over five weeks, followed by a monthly treatment to maintain the results.

Kim also developed a treatment system called ART that works by balancing hormones and regulating the digestive and lymphatic systems. “A healthy organ system is reflected as a healthy glow to the face,” he says. “ART treatment cleans body fluids by regulating water metabolism. It refreshes blood and detoxifies the whole body.” Basically, it acts like a detox and increases blood circulation to the skin — this releases muscle tightness and results in fewer wrinkles. Unlike other acupuncture treatments, the needles are removed immediately to improve collagen and muscle tone. One treatment program has four sessions.  

Needles For: Helping With Weight Loss

“A series of acupuncture can regulate water metabolism for the whole body to help suppress the appetite,” Kim says. Mintsis says that two points on the ear (the “hunger point” and the “stomach point”), can be stimulated, AKA needled (my words), to help get cravings and feelings of hunger under control. Certain points on your body — just above the ankle bone on the inside of your leg, for one — can also be stimulated to help improve metabolism. 

Don’t expect it to be magic, however — Mintsis notes that this isn’t any substitute for exercising and maintaining a healthy diet (so don’t toss that kale and gym membership just yet), but it is an effective tool to have in your arsenal to help you reach your goals. Twelve sessions seems to be the magic number; that’s how many are recommended to assist with a weight-loss plan.

Needles For: Calming a Tension Headache

If you’re chronically stressed (see above), you’re probably pretty familiar with tension headaches. While headache pains occur in the head, Mintsis says the culprit is usually somewhere else. “Poor posture, heavy bags and long hours at work in front of a computer create a lot of tension in our neck and upper back muscles,” she says. “In addition, a lot of people carry their stress in their neck and upper back, and feel increased pain and tension every time they are exposed to a stressful situation.” (Which is most of the time, for many of us). 

To relieve this, Mintsis explains that, in Chinese medicine, you place the needle where the tension is to balance the qi and increase blood flow to the area. “That is the ‘calming point,’ and if you place needles at many of these, then you open the channels of chi, to ease pain in the body,” she explains. 


Affinity Acupuncture provides acupuncture services to treat the conditions listed above, and much more. To learn more, visit here.