Sports Medicine Acupuncture Part 3
By Richard McMahon
BHSc (Acupuncutre), Dip Remedial Massage
In part 3 of our “Sports Medicine Acupuncture” series, we will look into some of the theories and research informing Acupuncture practice in a modern clinic. As you will see in Chinese medicine traditional theories are built upon but never thrown out as they underpin the entire process of treatment. Modern research is used to explain traditional concepts but does not replace them.
Ever since Acupuncture has been introduced to the English speaking world, there has been an ongoing quest to find out what acupuncture points actually are. The initial approach was via histology (the study of differing tissue types). The aim being to differentiate an acupuncture point from the surrounding tissue. Several structures such as neurovascular bundles, neuromuscular attachments, and various types of sensory nerve endings have been described at acupuncture points. Other studies have reported an increase in the electrical conductivity of the skin at acupuncture points compared with control points. However, the most promising structure to fill the bridge between ancient and modern thought is the fibrous connective tissue web that holds our bodies in shape, known as Fascia.
Fascia can be seen as a fibrous net or web that is continuous throughout our entire body. It serves as a scaffolding for nerves and blood vessels, allows the transference of mechanical force between muscle to bone and along broad sheets of connective tissue known as myofascial planes. Previously disregarded in research, fascia is showing itself to be more than an inert support system. It is being revealed as an essential communication network, a fibrous connective tissue network. This fibrous network communicates mechanical information whilst the more commonly known fluid network composed of blood and lymphatic vessels communicates chemical information and the neural net composed of nerves and individual neurons and neuroglia communicates electrical information. It is the communication between the 3 networks that allows the body to maintain health and mobility.
Relationship of Acupuncture Points and Meridians to Connective Tissue Planes
HELENE M. LANGEVIN* AND JASON A. YANDOW
Acupuncture meridians traditionally are believed to constitute channels connecting the surface of the body to internal organs. We hypothesize that the network of acupuncture points and meridians can be viewed as a representation of the network formed by interstitial connective tissue. This hypothesis is supported by ultrasound images showing connective tissue cleavage planes at acupuncture points in normal human subjects. To test this hypothesis, we mapped acupuncture points in serial gross anatomical sections through the human arm. We found an 80% correspondence between the sites of acupuncture points and the location of intermuscular or intramuscular connective tissue planes in post mortem tissue sections. We propose that the anatomical relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes is relevant to acupuncture’s mechanism of action and suggests a potentially important integrative role for interstitial connective tissue. Anat Rec (New Anat) 269:257–265, 2002.
The reason why this insight is particularly interesting to Acupuncturists is because of the traditional concept of the San Jiao or “Triple Heater”. The San Jiao has been described as an organ with a name but no form in the classics. It has no shape of its own but takes the form of the organ or structure it surrounds which is exactly what fascia does in the body. It is also seen to allow a space for fluids and information to travel throughout the various regions of the body. This mirrors the modern finding that interstitial fluid (fluid outside of the cells) travels through the spaces in the lattice structure of our connective tissue and nutrients, gases, hormones and other chemical messages travel in this fluid.
The term acupuncture point is more accurately translated as acupuncture hole and this is why the channels have not been found previously because the channels exist in the spaces within the connective tissue and are not a separate structure. It is the response between the connective tissue and the needle that gives the characteristic achy sensation when a classical technique is applied. Combine this research with the interesting fact that connective tissue can actually produce a piezoelectric current (electricity which is produced by either stretch or compression) and Fascia gives a modern view on the classical concepts of the movement of Qi and fluids throughout the body in line with the concept of the San Jiao.
Callison M, Lecture notes for module 1 of the Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification course, AcuSport seminars, October 2014
Keown, D, “The Spark in the Machine”, Singing Dragon, London, 2014
Langevin, H & Yandow, J, “Relationship of Acupuncture Points and Meridians to Connective Tissue Planes”, Anat Rec (New Anat) 269:257–265, 2002.
Ju-Yi, W & Robertson, J, Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine”, Eastland Press, Seattle, 2008