How Does Acupuncture Work?
How Does Acupuncture Work? - Combinatorial Coding
Acupuncture utilizes the capacity of the mind to sense and respond to combinatorial patterns. Neurons recognize and transmit functional messages. Their signals selectively signify smells, heat, light, sounds, touch, pain and much more. Those signals also tense muscles and trigger the production of neurohormones.
A Nobel Prize was awarded in 2004 for the discovery that the olfactory nerve system identifies smells by recognizing particular combinations of nerve signals. This website holds that all neurons recognize combinations of incoming signals to fire, or to become inhibited.
The localized acupuncture pain signals are recognized by cells in other regions, which respond by inhibiting pain signals, or relaxing muscles. Since combinatorial codes work in a massively linked network, the application of a needle in one location generates responses in distant regions of the body.
- Successfully practiced worldwide, science has not been able to explain how acupuncture treatment works.
- WHO has acknowledged the beneficial effects of acupuncture.
- Traditional Chinese medical theory suggests that a “vital energy” links the external surface of the body to internal systems through broad and mysterious pathways. This is not a satisfactory scientific explanation.
- The diagnosis of illness for acupuncture treatment is highly individualized and seeks to identify “patterns of disharmony.” Diagnosis depends on individual philosophical theories and intuitive impressions.
- All the peripheral pathways treated in acupuncture are wholly traversed by pain and touch sensory nerve cells.
- Combinatorial coding has been acknowledged by science. The phenomenon can explain how a touch can relieve pain.
- A combinatorial coding intelligence, which links the pain and sensory pathways to the motor systems provides the obvious explanation for acupuncture.
Does Acupuncture Work? -Practiced
is not voodoo. It is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine
needles into specific points on the body to relieve pain or for
therapeutic purposes. A legend claims that acupuncture started in
China when some soldiers experimented with arrows (later needles) as
therapy, after experiencing relief from pain in other parts of the
body, after being wounded by arrows in battle.
Tibetan, Vietnamese and Korean forms of acupuncture are practiced and
taught throughout the world. The beneficial effects of the treatment
indicate a real life phenomenon. The impact of acupuncture can be
explained from known scientific facts.
Does Acupuncture Work? -Acupuncture Is Effective
effective therapy implies real physical responses within the system.
The WHO endorses acupuncture for approximately two dozen conditions,
and says evidence is suggestive but inconclusive for several dozen
more. George A. Ulett at the University of Missouri School of
Medicine reports that the stimulation of about 80 acupuncture points
has proved to be useful for pain control. A review for the American
Pain Society/American College of Physicians found evidence that
acupuncture is effective for chronic low back pain. Another 2008
review suggests that combining acupuncture with conventional
infertility treatments such as IVF significantly improves success
The Cochrane review suggested that stimulation of the P6
acupoint can reduce the risk of postoperative nausea and vomiting
with minimal side effects. Several trials have indicated that
migraine patients benefit from acupuncture. There is also general
agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained
practitioners using sterile needles. While acupuncture cannot replace
Western medicine, it is regarded to be an effective complementary
therapy. These benefits of acupuncture can only be produced by real
life nervous system events.
Does Acupuncture Work? -Traditional Chinese Theory
Chinese medical theory gave practitioners an abstract framework for
the identification of acupuncture points. According to them, disease
is caused by a loss of balance of Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood within the
body. Qi is an immaterial “vital energy” and Blood (capitalized
to distinguish it from physiological blood) is material. Qi is
believed to move through twelve internal and an external pathways.
The internal pathways enter the body cavities and related Zang Fu
organs - functional systems, named after anatomical organs. Zang is
translated as "viscera" or solid organs and Fu is
translated as "bowels" or hollow organs. Zang Fu are
capitalized in English - Lung, Heart, Kidney, etc. Treatment modifies
the activity of one or more organs through the application of
needles, pressure, heat, etc. on sensitive acupuncture points. The
traditional theory suggested links from the peripheral nervous system
through broad pathways to the internal systems. But this explanation
does not practically answer the question "How Does Acupuncture
Does Acupuncture Work? -The Diagnosis
results cannot be indexed precisely, because neural links vary
widely. Neuron growth differs widely for individuals and
combinatorial codes can be both acquired and inherited. So,
acupuncture treatment is highly individualized. Each practitioner
bases it on philosophical theories and subjective and intuitive
impressions. Inspection focuses on the face and tongue, including
analysis of the tongue size, shape, tension, color and coating, and
the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge.
sounds and body odor are considered. Chills and fever; perspiration;
appetite, thirst and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep;
and menses are questioned. The body is felt for tender "ashi"
points. Practitioners link "patterns of disharmony," to
biomedical conditions. As an example, for the pattern called
Deficiency of Spleen, Qi may be manifested as as chronic fatigue,
diarrhea or uterine prolapse. Tradition suggests "One disease,
many patterns; one pattern, many diseases."
Does Acupuncture Work? -Identification Of Links
practitioners realized that specific acupuncture points had links to
particular biological systems. Specific pain signals were recognized
by these systems, which responded by relaxing local muscles, or by
triggering beneficial neurohormonal responses. The early
practitioners linked these identified cause and effect relationships
to imagine a comprehensible system.
Qi and Blood flow through
"fourteen channels" - "twelve main meridians" and
two of the "eight extra meridians" (Du Mai and Ren Mai).
The twelve primary pathways run vertically, bilaterally, and
symmetrically and every channel corresponds to and connects
internally with one of the twelve Zang Fu organs. All acupuncture
points of a channel lie on its external pathway. In reality, this
entire external pathway is wholly traversed by pain and touch sensory
Does Acupuncture Work? -Combinatorial Logic
many neural functions, combinatorial coding powers the variations in
human response to pain. Pain sensory neurons report pain to the
cortex. Acupuncture is known to trigger inhibitory action in the pain
pathways of the cerebral cortex. It was also was shown to increase
the nitric oxide levels in treated regions, resulting in increased
local blood circulation.
Pain blockade is also mediated by
neurohormones. Let us assume that a reporting pain sensory neuron has
three inputs - P, SP and T. P reports actual pain caused by damage to
skin cells. SP reports pain signals from neighboring pain reporting
cells. T reports touch signals from surrounding cells, or from linked
accupressure points. Consider the possible interpretations of pain
sent by the reporting system to the cortex:
P - Fire to report pain.
SP - Fire to report sympathetic pain.
P + T - Fire to ignore touch and report pain.
SP + T - Inhibit - suppress sympathetic pain to report touch.
on its evaluation of its combinatorial inputs, the pain reporting
neuron can substantially vary its interpretation of pain. Pain can be
directly reported. By responding with sympathetic pain messages, or
remembered pain messages, the neuron can exaggerate effect of injury.
Touch signals can suppress sympathetic and recalled pain messages.
Combinatorial codes can enable neurons to enable the seemingly
mysterious responses of the body to accupuncture and
Does Acupuncture Work? -Blockage Points Activate Links
ancient practitioners discovered tender “ashi points,” which
indicated “blockages.” Touch sensory signals in these points
generated pain signals in the system. Essentially, specific groups of
neurons responded to neighborhood neural activity by triggering
remembered pain signals, or by tensing muscles. Palpation of these
tender points triggered pain signals.
Acupressure (repeated touch),
or ongoing acupuncture stilled pain, or relaxed muscles in the linked
regions. The “removal of blockages” and “the free flow of Qi
and Blood” were the combinatorial responses of an intelligent
neural network. They responded to acupressure, or acupuncture by
“tonifying where there is deficiency, draining where there is
excess, and promoting free flow where there is stagnation.” The
guiding principle of acupuncture was "no pain, no blockage; no
blockage, no pain."
Does Acupuncture Work? -Typical Treatment
acupuncture acts on the system through a widely distributed nervous
system, acupuncture points are quite remote from the problem regions.
Typically, a common treatment for headaches is to stimulate the
sensitive points in the centers of the webs between the thumbs and
the palms of the patient's hands.
The patient reclines, and the
points on each hand are first sterilized with alcohol, and then thin,
disposable needles are inserted until a characteristic "twinge"
is felt by the patient, often accompanied by a slight twitching of
the area between the thumb and hand. Most patients report a
pleasurable "tingling" sensation and feeling of relaxation
while the needles are in place. Others may experience extreme
sensitivity to pain at the sensitive points and even a feeling of
nausea, before getting relief.
Does Acupuncture Work? -Coding Solves A Mystery
science has still not acknowledged the impact of combinatorial coding
in the nervous system. Without such an understanding, science has
expended massive efforts to discover either anatomical, or
physiological links to acupuncture points. They could find no
evidence of the flow of Qi or Blood along the fourteen channels.
There was no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence
of acupuncture points or meridians.
According to the NIH consensus
statement on acupuncture, these traditional Chinese medical concepts
"are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical
information but continue to play an important role in the evaluation
of patients and the formulation of treatment in acupuncture.” A
combinatorial coding intelligence, which links the pain and sensory
pathways to the motor systems provides the obvious links for
acupuncture. This explanation grants a "scientific basis"
for the treatment.
This page was last updated on 31-Dec-2013.