Acupuncture Point Evidence

What acupuncture point evidence is there? Lots! And growing! Hard to refute, though sceptics will always exist. But even WHO is convinced.
brown and gray sand art: evidence
Photo by Clay Banks

What acupuncture point evidence is there?

Well, obviously, I think they exist.   

(OK. Apparently that’s not enough.)

Did you know that a bunch of scientists think they’ve discovered proof? Actual, see-it-through-the-bottom-of-your-beer-mug proof?

An electron spectroscopy journal has published research done using CT (computerised tomography) scans. This shows that, compared to non-acupuncture points, real acupuncture points :

  • have a higher density of micro-vessels and 
  • contain a large amount of involuted microvascular structures
  • have very distinct structural differences compared with their surrounding areas. 

 

There! I knew you’d be interested!

What does it mean?

‘At the acupuncture points, micro-vascular densities with bifurcations “can be clearly seen around thick blood vessels” but non-acupuncture point areas showed few thick blood vessels and none showed fine, high density structures.

The acupuncture points contained fine structures with more large blood vessels that are several dozen micrometers in size plus beds of high density vascularization of vessels 15-50 micrometers in size.’

For more on this exciting topic, click here.

Source: Chenglin, Liu, Wang Xiaohu, Xu Hua, Liu Fang, Dang Ruishan, Zhang Dongming, Zhang Xinyi, Xie Honglan, and Xiao Tiqiao. “X-ray phase-contrast CT imaging of the acupoints based on synchrotron radiation.” Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena (2013)

Wait … there’s more! Partial Oxygen Pressure Tests

Yes, there’s more. Another bunch of scientists “used an amperometric oxygen microsensor to detect partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations on the anterior aspect of the wrist. The researchers concluded that partial oxygen pressure is significantly higher at acupuncture points.”

(No, I did electrical engineering at university, and I don’t know what it means either.)

However, they show pictures of the outcome, with clear shiny results for the acupuncture point locations. See the image below:

 

Partial oxygen pressure test for acupuncture points
 

 

Reference: 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

In the image above you can see that each of the yellow or red areas seems to be occupied by an acupuncture point. On the left, under the thumb, you see Lung points Lung 8 and Lung 9. In the middle are Pericardium 6 and 7. On the right, under the little finger, are Heart points 4, 5, 6 and Heart 7.

There are lots of references to other work proving the existence of acupuncture points using 

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • infrared imaging
  • LCD thermal photography
  • ultrasound and
  • other CT imaging methods

 

For the full article and references, click here.

So, after that brief introduction, click here for something lighter. Or make yourself  some green tea, take a paracetemol, and settle down with the following.

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There are many theories of how acupuncture works. The following is partly based on an article referenced below on “Science-based Mechanisms to Explain the Action of Acupuncture “.

Measurable Biological Evidence for acupuncture points

When a needle is inserted it produces different kinds of reactions, some of them biological. We can measure these reactions which include:

  • inflammation – redness round or under the point
  • lowered skin resistance at the point
  • effect on nerves and brain (Kuo, 2004, Hsieh, 2001)
  • rate of heart beat
  • blood pressure
  • bowel motions
  • hormone release (Nishijo, 1997, Ouyang, 2004, Stux, 2001)

 

1/ Gate-control theory (Melzack and Wall, 1965)

This deals with how pain transmits to the brain along the spinal cord and how acupuncture uses another non-pain pathway that causes release of the body’s own painkillers – endorphins. The latter overcome the former.

2/ Morphogenetic singularity theory (Shang 1989; Shang 2001)

This theory proposes that acupuncture points are leftovers from the very early growth control system in the embryo. As we grow, connections remain even when the physical locations of points are far apart. So there are points on the lower leg that continue to relate to points on the lower arm. Treating the former can relieve pain in the latter.

3/ Neurohumeral theory

Some still believe that acupuncture is purely placebo in effect.

This has been disproved many times (Vincent 1986; Pomerantz 1976; Chan, 1975; Chen, 1980). One study found acute pain reduction by acupuncture analgesia was  blocked by naloxon which stops the body’s natural opiates from working.

This suggests that acupuncture does stimulate those opiates, reducing pain.

This led to the neurohumeral theory. This proposes that acupuncture stimulates production of endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins, plus serotonin and noradrenalin in the synapses. (Cabyoglu, 2006)

4/ Autonomous nervous system

Some studies show acupuncture inhibits the sympathetic nervous system and promotes the parasympathetic nervous system (Nishijo, 1997; Sugiyama, 1995; Sakai, 2007). 

Ma, 2005, showed that electro-acupuncture at Zusanli, Stomach 36, on rats, increased production of Nitric Oxide, thereby lowering sympathetic activity in the body and as a result, lowered blood pressure. Another piece of research by Chen 2006 backed this up.

5/ Visible evidence and from experiments with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)-scans

These show that stimulating certain acupuncture points produces reactions in the brain where it controls functions that acupuncture theory  associates with the channels on which the points lie.

For example laser treatment at Bladder 67 stimulated activity in the visual area of the brain (Siedentopf, 2002). At Gallbladder 34 it increased activity in the motor area, again as predicted by theory (Wu 2002).

6/ Mechano-transduction theory

Niboyet 1961 and Backer 1976 showed that in healthy people acupuncture points have a lower electrical resistance compared with the surrounding skin.  They found that the distribution of these lower resistance points was exactly where the ancient Chinese had put them.

7/ Other theories

These include postsynaptic inhibition (Stux, 2000).

Source for the above, with references, is an article in Journal of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (UK) Volume 17 Issue No 2 (Sept 2010) titled “Science-based Mechanisms to Explain the Action of Acupuncture” by Man-Chi Wong Hui Jun Shen.

Which theories are correct?

The last time I read up on this those in most favour were the morpho-genetic, neuro-humeral and local mechanistic theories.

Reading this kind of research gives me a headache so I can’t honestly say I do it much. Although I’m interested in the outcomes I work on another theory – based on results from what I do as inspired by knowledge and experience.

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