Acupuncture Peptic Ulcer Relief Confirmed

By HealthCMi 12 AUGUST 2018

Acupuncture helps to heal peptic ulcers and prevents relapses. Researchers conclude that acupuncture increases the total effective rate of drug therapy for the treatment of peptic ulcers. Researchers from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhongnan University (Hunan, China) combined acupuncture with standard drug therapy. Patients receiving both drug therapy and acupuncture in a combined treatment protocol had superior patient outcomes compared with patients receiving only drug therapy. Furthermore, acupuncture increases the H. pylori-negative conversion rate and decreases the recurrence rate of drug therapy. [1] In a significant finding, acupuncture added to usual care reduces the relapse rate from 41.7% to 15.4%.

Two groups were compared. In one group, patients received bismuth subnitrate (known by the trade name Veytalo) tablets and amoxicillin as a means to control H. pylori infection. In the second group, bismuth subnitrate and amoxicillin were combined with acupuncture therapy. The drug control group achieve an 82.2% total effective rate. The acupuncture treatment group achieve a 95.6% total effective rate. In addition, the drug control group had a 71.1% H. pylori-negative conversion rate. The acupuncture treatment group had an 86.7% H. pylori-negative conversion rate (i.e., 86.7% of patients were no longer positive for the presence of Helicobacter pylori).

In a 12-month follow-up examination, patients receiving only drug therapy had a 41.7% recurrence rate of peptic ulcers. Patients receiving drug therapy plus acupuncture had a 15.4% recurrence rate. The researchers conclude that adding acupuncture to a bismuth subnitrate plus amoxicillin treatment regimen consolidates the treatment effects and prevents possible recurrence and necessitation for drug therapy.

Chinese Medicine Theory
Peptic ulcers are a common health problem that occur in the stomach (gastric ulcers) or the upper part of the small intestine, typically manifesting in duodenal ulcers. [2] In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), peptic ulcers are in the scope of stomach duct pain (Wei Wan Tong), acid swallowing (Tun Suan), and blood ejection (Tu Xue). TCM principles specify that peptic ulcers are often due to dysfunction of the stomach, spleen, and liver. TCM principles also notate that spleen and stomach weakness is the underlying root cause of the disease. In the Incisive Light on the Source of Miscellaneous Disease (Za Bing Yuan Liu Xi Zhu), it is written that “Stomach disease is often due to pathogenic factors invading the stomach. When there is harmonious flow of abundant qi and blood, the stomach becomes so strong that pathogenic factors cannot affect it; if not, the stomach becomes so weak that pathogenic factors can easily affect it and cause stomach diseases.” The therapeutic treatment principles are to fortify the spleen, harmonize the stomach, and rectify qi to relieve pain.

The researchers (Li et al.) used the following study design. A total of 90 human patients that were diagnosed with peptic ulcers were treated and evaluated in this study. Patients were randomly divided into an acupuncture therapy treatment group and a drug monotherapy control group, with 45 patients in each group. For the control group patients, bismuth subnitrate tablets and amoxicillin were administered. The combination of bismuth subnitrate with antibiotics has been used to treat Helicobacter pylori infections in clinical settings and was therefore chosen as the standard of usual care. The acupuncture therapy treatment group received acupuncture sessions in addition to the identical drug therapy administered to the drug control group.

Prior to beginning the study, both groups were comprised of equivalent demographic constituents. The acupuncture treatment group was comprised of 26 males and 19 females. The average age in the acupuncture group was 41.65 (±1.35) years. The average course of disease in the treatment group was 5.5 years. The drug control group was comprised of 28 males and 17 females. The average age in the drug control group was 40.18 (±0.35) years. The average total course of the disease in the drug control group was 5.8 years. For both groups, there were no significant differences in gender, age, and course of disease prior to beginning the investigation.

Drug and Acupuncture Treatment
For the drug control group, patients received 110 mg doses of bismuth subnitrate tablets and 250 mg of amoxicillin (orally administered, 4 times each day). Every 7 days of tablet consumption consisted of one treatment course. A total of 2 courses were administered. The acupuncture group received a combination of acupuncture and drug therapy. The needle retention time was 10 – 30 minutes. Acupuncture was administered once per day, 5 days per week, followed by a 2-day break. Each treatment course consisted of 2 weeks of acupuncture treatments. All patients received 2 treatment courses in total. A total of 2 – 3 primary acupoints were selected from the following list:

  • BL20 (Pishu)
  • BL21 (Weishu)
  • CV12 (Zhongwan)
  • ST36 (Zusanli)
  • PC6 (Neiguan)

Additional acupoints were selected on individual symptomatic presentations. The acupoint selection was based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory of differential diagnosis by pattern differentiation. For disturbed qi dynamics, the following acupoints were added:

  • LV14 (Qimen)
  • LV2 (Xingjian)
  • BL18 (Ganshu)

For qi and blood stagnation, the following acupoints were added:

  • BL17 (Geshu)
  • SP6 (Sanyinjiao)

For stomach yin deficiency, the following acupoints were added:

  • SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
  • KI3 (Taixi)

For a cold and deficient stomach and spleen, the following acupoints were added:

  • CV4 (Guanyuan)
  • CV6 (Qihai)

Point Selection
Neiguan (PC6) is located 2 cun superior to the transverse crease of the wrist. This acupoint was selected because it is located on the pericardium meridian and is one of the confluent points of eight extra meridians, which makes it not only indicated for heart and chest diseases, but also spleen and stomach dysfunction. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heart (fire) is the mother of spleen (earth). Therefore, needling Neiguan is beneficial to the spleen. This is a basic five element implementation of the mother nourishes child principle; in this case, stimulating the pericardium meridian with the acupoint PC6 (Neiguan) supports the spleen and stomach.

Zusanli (ST36) is located below the knee. This acupoint is the He-Sea point of the stomach meridian. Zhongwan (CV12) is the Front-Mu point of the stomach meridian. Needling these two points regulates the spleen and stomach, tonifies qi and blood, and strengthens areas of weakness. Pishu (BL20) and Weishu (BL21) are the Back-Shu points of the spleen meridian and stomach meridians respectively. In TCM, Back-Shu points are the gathering places for the essence of their corresponding Zang-Fu organs. Needling Pishu and Weishu tonifies the spleen and stomach.

Modern research confirms that Zusanli and Zhongwan benefit gastrointestinal function. For example, researchers from the Hubei University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Chen et al.) tested Zusanli in a controlled experiment and confirm that it is effective for benefiting the stomach. [3] In the experiment, rats had improved stomach acid levels and gastrointestinal motility. In an independent research, Luo et al note, “Needling Zusanli and Zhongwan has a bidirectional regulation on stomach acid levels and gastric pepsin levels.” They add that “Needling these points can stimulate the vagus nerve and inhibit acid secretion in people who develop gastric ulcers.” [4] Given the historical TCM indications and proven modern applications of Zusanli (ST36) and Zhongwan (CV12), Li et al. combined both acupoints into an acupuncture treatment protocol to determine their effects on peptic ulcers.

The results indicate that acupuncture combined with conventional drug therapy into an integrated treatment protocol is more effective than bismuth subnitrate plus amoxicillin as a standalone therapy. Li et al. conclude that acupuncture is safe and effective for the alleviation of peptic ulcers.

[1] Li YM, Wu Q. Clinical Observation on 45 Cases of Peptic Ulcer Treated with Acupuncture [J]. Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, 2008(06):84-85.
[3] Chen XH, Liu YX, Wang H. Comparative Study on the Effect of Acupuncture and Moxibustion “Zusanli and Guanyuan” on Immune Function of Rats with Yang Deficiency [J]. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, 1999, 18(9): 555.
[4] Luo YF. Analysis of the Saying which goes “Zusanli is indicated for stomach diseases” [J]. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, 1997, 16 (6): 38.

Acupuncture Beats Injected Morphine for Pain: Groundbreaking Study

An amazing new study has found that acupuncture, the ancient practice of using needles to stimulate bodily self healing, is more effective than intravenous morphine for pain.

A truly groundbreaking study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicinetitled, “Acupuncture vs intravenous morphine in the management of acute pain in the ED,” reveals that acupuncture — one of the oldest techniques to treat pain — is more effective, faster in relieving pain, and with less adverse effects, than intravenous morphine.

The study was conducted over the course of a 1-year period at the Fattouma Bourguiba University Hospital in Tunisia, a tertiary care facility with over 100,000 Emergency Department (ED) visits per year.

300 ED patients with acute pain were included in the study: 150 in the morphine group (administered up to 15 mg a day) and 150 in the acupuncture group. The two groups were comparable in terms of age, sex, and co-morbidities, with the only significant difference being that there were more abdominal pain patients in the morphine group and more low back pain cases in the acupuncture group.

The striking results were reported as follows:

“Success rate was significantly different between the 2 groups (92% in the acupuncture group vs 78% in the morphine group P b .01). Resolution time was 16 ± 8 minutes in the acupuncture group vs 28 ± 14 minutes in the morphine group. The difference was statistically significant (P b .01). The mean absolute difference in pain score between the 2 groups was 7.7. This difference is not clinically significant because the minimal clinically significant absolute difference reported by Todd et al is 13. In morphine group, the mean total dose of morphine administered was 0.17 ± 0.08 mg/Kg (Table 2).

The pain scale change from baseline at each time point in the 2 groups is shown in Figure. From the 5-minute time point, the acupuncture group reported significantly larger pain decrease compared with the morphine group. This difference persisted during the entire study period. Change of blood pressure, HR, RR, and oxygen saturation was not significant in both groups.

Overall, 89 patients (29.3%) experienced minor adverse effects: 85(56.6%) in morphine group and 4 (2.6%) in acupuncture group; the difference was significant between the 2 groups (Table 3). The most frequent adverse effect was dizziness in the morphine group (42%) and needle breakage in the acupuncture group (2%). No major adverse effect was recorded during the study protocol. (See Table 4.)”

In short, the acupuncture group saw a great pain-relieving effect, which occurred faster, with significantly less side effects.

A graph from the study showing the pain-decreasing differences between morphine and acupuncture


Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recognized acupuncture as a safe and effective therapy for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, including pain and discomfort.1 Despite this, the use of acupuncture within the conventional standard of care is still exceedingly rare. A deep skepticism exists for therapeutic modalities that do yet have a clearly characterized mechanism of action, as defined through conventional biomedical understanding and terminology. Often, in lieu of this, its therapeutic effects are written off as merely “placebo.”

Placebo, however, is not as diminutive term as it may first seem.  The placebo effectactually reflects the deep power and regenerative capability of the body-mind to heal itself. And since its power translates directly into real, measurable improvements in terms of clinical outcomes, it does not matter if we fully understand “how” it works. Also, consider that “evidence-based” (EB) medicine not only depends entirely on clinical outcomes as final proof of an intervention’s efficacy, but also, the entire EB medicine model depends on “controlling” for the placebo effect, as it is already tacitly recognized as having immense power in influencing the outcomes in most interventions. And so, whether or not a fully known or plausible “mechanism of action” has been identified is secondary in importance to whether it works or not in clinical practice.

Clearly the new study reveals that acupuncture has a powerful role to play in pain management. With addiction to pain relieving drugs affecting millions around the world, acupuncture is perfectly poised to provide patients a time-tested, drug-free alternative. As you can see from the study’s graph, the adverse effects comparison is staggeringly in favor of acupuncture as the safer modality.

Finally, here are the study’s powerful conclusions:

“Our study demonstrated that in patients with acute pain syndromes presenting to the Emergency Department (ED), acupuncture is at least as efficacious and has a better safety profile than IV morphine. The results of this study suggest that acupuncture has a potential role in controlling acute pain conditions presenting to EDs and appears to be safe and effective. Future studies should be performed in international populations.”


1. World Health Organization. Acupuncture: review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials; 2002.

Acupuncture and Herbs Stop Shingles Pain, Outperforms Drugs

Needles being inserted perpendicular to the paraspinal muscles bilaterally.

Acupuncture and herbs prove effective for the treatment of shingles. Researchers from three independent studies conclude that acupuncture and herbal medicine significantly relieve rashes and pain associated with the herpes zoster virus (shingles). Importantly, acupuncture and herbal medicine outperformed antiviral and anti-inflammatory medications, indicating that usual care protocols are suboptimal without inclusion of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

The shingles viral infection is characterized by painful blisters, usually located in a single strip on either side of the trunk, neck, or face. Even once the blisters have subsided, patients can be left with severe neuralgia (nerve pain), which may last for several weeks or months. According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles, this condition usually falls into the category of either excess liver fire, liver and gallbladder damp heat, or spleen deficiency with accumulated pathogenic dampness. Rashes associated with shingles are sometimes referred to as “snake string sores” in TCM, reflecting the nature of their physical presentation.

People’s Hospital

The first study we will look at today was conducted by researchers at the People’s Hospital of Shenyang Economic and Technological Development Zone. [i] A total of 88 patients with a clinical diagnosis of a herpes zoster infection were recruited and randomly assigned to an acupuncture and herbal medicine observation group or a drug control group (including anti-inflammatory and antiviral medications).

The acupuncture and herbal medicine group produced significantly greater patient outcomes. This includes a higher cure rate, a higher overall effective rate, and a lower failure rate. The results indicate that standard procedures to alleviate shingles in hospital and outpatient settings absent acupuncture and herbs are definitively not the most effective means to provide relief to patients.

The observation group comprised 20 male and 24 female participants with a mean age of 43.6 years. Their mean duration of disease was 3.4 days. The control group comprised 18 male and 26 female participants, with a mean age of 42.8 years. The mean duration of disease in this group was 3.6 days. There were no statistically significant differences in baseline characteristics between the two groups at the outset of the investigation.

Treatment Procedures

The control group was treated with conventional drug therapy including:

• Acyclovir (200mg, three times a day)

• Vitamin B1 (10mg, three times a day)

• Ibuprofen slow release capsules (300mg daily)

• Acyclovir topical ointment

The observation group was treated with a modified version of the herbal formula Long Dan Xie Gan Tang containing the following herbs:

• Sheng Di 30g

• Che Qian Zi 30g

• Ban Lan Gen 30g

• Huang Qin 15g

• Chi Shao 15g

• Zhi Zi 15g

• Da Qing Ye 15g

• Long Dan Cao 12g

• Ze Xie 12g

• Chai Hu 10g

• Dang Gui 10g


• For patients suffering from concurrent constipation, Da Huang (10g) was added to the formula.

• For patients with symptoms of exuberant heat, Sheng Shi Gao (30g), Zhi Mu (15g), and Mu Dan Pi (15g) were added.

• For patients with pus-filled blisters, Pu Gong Ying (30g) was added.

• For patients with severe pain, Zhi Ru Xiang (10g) and Zhi Mo Yao (10g) were added.

The herbs were decocted in water and one dose was taken daily, divided into two portions for morning and evening consumption. The patients in the observation group were also treated with acupuncture at the following acupoints:

• Huatuojiaji (MBW35)

• Zhigou (TB6)

• Yanglingquan (GB34)

• Yinlingquan (SP9)

Acupuncture was also administered locally in the area of herpetic rashes. Needles were inserted into the spaces between blisters, approximately 1.5 cun apart. The needles were manipulated slightly then withdrawn immediately, and the puncture was not sealed with cotton. The incidental drawing of a small drop of blood was considered a beneficial effect. The affected area was also warmed with a moxa cigar. Treatment was administered once daily. Both groups underwent treatment for a total of ten days, with an initial assessment of rashes after five days.

Clinical Outcomes

Patients with a complete resolution of rashes and clinical symptoms (including pain) were classified as cured. In patients with at least a 30% improvement in rashes and pain reduction, the treatment was classified as effective. In patients showing less than 30% improvement in rashes and no change or worsening of pain, the treatment was classified as ineffective.

In the drug control group, 15 patients were cured, 21 cases were classified as effective, and 8 cases were classified as ineffective, yielding a total effective rate of 81.8%. In the acupuncture and herbal medicine observation group, 25 patients were cured, 18 cases were classified as effective, and one case was classified as ineffective, yielding a total effective rate of 97.7%.

A combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine has been used for the treatment of shingles for over 1,000 years. This modern study confirms the efficaciousness of a common TCM protocol for the treatment of herpes zoster. A rethinking of usual care standards seems appropriate based on the findings. At the Healthcare Medicine Institute (HealthCMi), we examine traditional acupuncture continuing education standards and repeatedly find that an integrative medicine model for the treatment of shingles is superior to drug monotherapy. Let’s take a look at the second study in our review of shingles treatments.

Changjizhou and Jimusa’erxian TCM Hospital

The second study conducted by researchers at the Changjizhou and Jimusa’erxian TCM Hospital (department of acupuncture and moxibustion) determined that acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective for the treatment of shingles. [ii] For this study, a total of 40 patients were recruited and randomly assigned to either an observation or control group.

The observation group was comprised of 12 male and 8 female participants, ages 18–63 years (mean age 35.5 years). Their duration of disease was 1–10 days (mean duration 5.5 days) at the outset. The control group was comprised of 13 male and 7 female participants, ages 18–65 years (mean age 36.5 years). Their duration of disease was 1–8 days (mean duration 4.5 days). There were no statistically significant differences in baseline characteristics between the two groups at the outset of the investigation.

Treatment Procedures

Both groups were treated with herbal decoctions according to their TCM differential diagnoses. Patients diagnosed with excessive heat in the liver channel were prescribed a version of Qing Re Zhi Tong Tang containing the following herbs:

• Lian Qiao 15g

• Jin Yin Hua 15g

• Huang Qin 10g

• Zhi Zi 10g

• Huang Lian 10g

• Long Dan Cao 5g

• Gan Cao 5g

• Da Qing Ye 25g

• Ling Ci Shi 25g

Patients diagnosed with spleen deficiency with accumulation of pathogenic dampness were prescribed a version of Chu Shi Wei Ling Tang containing the following ingredients:

• Cang Zhu 10g

• Chen Pi 10g

• Shao Bai Zhu 10g

• Che Qian Zi 15g

• Ze Xie 15g

• Fu Ling 15g

• Jin Yin Hua 15g

• Long Dan Cao 5g

• Ling Ci Shi 25g

Both decoctions were taken as a daily dose for a total of 21 days. Patients in the observation group also received acupuncture in the area affected by the herpetic rash. Following standard disinfection, 3–6 needles were inserted surrounding the rash at a distance of approximately 0.5–1cm. The needles were inserted transversely to a depth of 20–50mm, angled towards the midpoint of the rash. The needles were manipulated using a balanced reinforcing-reducing method and were retained for 30 minutes. Treatment was administered daily for 14 days.

Clinical Outcomes

For patients whose rash and clinical symptoms fully resolved, treatment was classified as markedly effective. For those whose rash improved by more than 70% and experienced some reduction in pain, treatment was classified as effective. For those whose rash improved by less than 30% and experienced no reduction in pain, treatment was classified as ineffective.

In the control group, there were 10 markedly effective, 6 effective, and 4 ineffective cases, yielding a total effective rate of 80%. In the observation group, there were 15 markedly effective, 4 effective, and one ineffective cases, yielding a total effective rate of 95%.

The patients also rated their pain using a visual analog scale (VAS). VAS scores of 7–10 indicated severe, unbearable pain. Scores of 4–6 indicated severe but tolerable pain, 1–3 indicated mild pain, and scores of 0 indicated a complete absence of pain. At the beginning of the study, mean VAS scores in the control group and observation group were 7.36 and 7.25 respectively. By the end of the study, scores decreased significantly to 4.20 and 2.04 respectively, with significantly greater improvements in the observation group. The results indicate that a combination of acupuncture and herbs is more effective than using only herbal medicine.

Yungang Community Sanitation Service Center

The final study we will examine was conducted by researchers at the Chinese medicine and acupuncture department of the Yungang Community Sanitation Service Center in Beijing. [iii] A total of 36 herpes zoster patients were recruited for the study and were treated with acupuncture, herbs, and cupping therapy. The study group was comprised of 8 male and 28 female patients, ages 25–78 years. Of these participants, 8 had a disease duration of less than 2 days, 11 had a disease duration of 2–14 days, and the remaining 17 participants had a disease duration of over 14 days at the outset of the study.

Treatment Procedure

All patients were treated with a version of Long Dan Xie Tang and Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin. The ingredients were as follows:

• Sheng Di 20g

• Hei Shan Zhi 15g

• Long Dan Cao 10g

• Huang Bai 10g

• Chai Hu 10g

• Huang Qin 10g

• Che Qian Zi 10g

• Ze Xie 10g

• Mu Tong 10g

• Sheng Gan Cao 10g

• Jin Yin Hua 10g

• Lian Qiao 10g

• Ye Ju Hua 10g

• Zi Hua Di Ding 10g

• Pu Gong Ying 10g


• For patients suffering from concurrent constipation, Da Huang (10g) and Lai Fu Zi (10g) were added to the formula.

• For patients with symptoms of excessive heat, Huang Lian (10g) was added.

• For patients with severe pain, Chuan Lian Zi (10g) and Yuan Hu (10g) were added.

The herbs were decocted in water on a daily basis and were subsequently divided into three portions to be taken morning, noon, and evening. Acupuncture was administered in the area of the herpetic rashes. Needles were inserted between blisters and were stimulated using a reducing method to elicit a distending pain in the region. Needles were retained for 30 minutes.


• For patients whose symptoms originated in the area of the limbs, Quchi (LI11), Taichong (LV3), and Chezi (LU5) were added.

• For those whose symptoms originated on the back of the torso, Huatuojiaji (MBW35) and Hegu (LI4) were added.

• For those with a TCM diagnosis of liver fire blazing, Taichong (LV3), Chize (LU5), and Zhigou (TB6) were added.

• For those with a TCM diagnosis of damp-heat in the Stomach and Spleen, Xuehai (SP10) and Sanyinjiao (SP6) were added.

• For those with a TCM diagnosis of qi stagnation and blood stasis, Geshu (BL17) was added.

Needles at Huatuojiaji points were inserted perpendicularly to a depth of 0.7–0.8mm. The needles were manipulated using a balanced reinforcing-reducing method, and after the arrival of deqi, were retained for 20 minutes. Needles at the remaining acupoints were inserted and manipulated using a lifting, thrusting, and rotating reducing technique. These needles were also retained for 20 minutes. Treatment was administered daily for a total of ten days.

Cupping therapy was administered on every third day of the treatment period. A three-edged needle was used to puncture the skin surrounding the herpetic blisters. For those with a relatively small area affected by the rash, a single puncture was made. For those with a larger rash, the punctures were made approximately 3–5cm apart. A cup was then placed over the puncture(s) and were retained for 10 minutes.

Clinical Outcomes

Patients with a complete resolution of both rashes and associated pain were classified as recovered. For patients whose symptoms resolved almost completely, the treatment was classified as markedly effective. For patients whose symptoms partially resolved, the treatment was classified as effective. For patients whose symptoms did not improve or worsened, the treatment was classified as ineffective.

For patients whose symptoms had been present for less than two days, all 8 were fully recovered, yielding a 100% effective rate. Among those whose symptoms had been present for 2–14 days, 5 were classified as recovered and 2 were classified as markedly effective, yielding a total effective rate of 63.6%. For those whose symptoms had been present for over 14 days, one was classified as recovered and one was classified as effective, yielding a total effective rate of 11.8%.


The results of three independent studies indicate that acupuncture combined with herbal medicine is a highly effective treatment combination for rashes and pain associated with the herpes zoster virus. Additionally, treatment is significantly more effective the earlier it is administered. For more information, contact us at Inner Chi Hawai’i to learn about treatment options tailored uniquely to you.


[i] Cao Bo (2018) “Clinical Study of Longdan Xiegan decoction Combined with Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Herpes Zoster” Guide of China Medicine Vol.16(25) pp. 174-175.

[ii] Zhang Qin, Ding Yujie (2018) “Study on the Effect of Dialectical Treatment with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture on Clinical Symptoms of Herpes Zoster Neuralgia” Cardiovascular Disease Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine Vol.6(25) pp. 134.

[iii] Zhao Yun (2018) “Observation on the Effect of Combined Chinese Medicine and Cupping Method on 36 Patients with Herpes Zoster” Traditional Chinese Medicine Vol.16(16) pp.172-174.

Latest science and research reveals more about energy pathways, acupuncture’s effectiveness

Artwork by Samuel Farrand at

By James Madison, L.Ac for the Gazette.

In acupuncture theory, Qi (vital energy – a communication system) circulates through the body in meridians. When the flow of Qi becomes unbalanced or blocked, pain and disease result. Acupuncture points are specific areas where the Qi can be accessed and manipulated to restore balance.

We know acupuncture increases the body’s release of natural pain killers – endorphins and serotonin – in pain pathways. Modern research shows acupuncture affects most of the body’s systems: the nervous system, muscle tone, hormone outputs, circulation, antibody production, allergic responses, as well as respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems. However, everyone asks how it works, especially as the meridians cannot be seen. Let’s look at the latest science and research.

Numerous theories show we have structured water clusters inside our bodies. Structured water clusters are small particles which line up (as nanotubes) so that they become superconductors. This structured water not only moistens the body and conducts electricity, it is a communication system in the body which communicates instantaneously.

“Super-Conducting Liquid Crystalline Water Aligned with Collagen Fibers in the Fascia as Acupuncture Meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho explains the theory as demonstrated in the title. She used supporting evidence from biochemistry, cell biology, biophysics and neurophysiology to reach her conclusions. Another scientist, Dr. Shui-Yin Lo, a theoretical physicist, proposes through biophysics that stable clustered water forms the meridian system. Both arrived at the same conclusion through different pathways of investigation.

Muscles generate electricity. Electricity is transferred to the fascia. The fascia transfers information, at the speed of light, to your organs or other tissues. The fascia acts as a pump when you move, transferring fluids throughout your body. Fascia is present throughout your body and can transfer pain to different areas readily. Moving your foot moves the fascia, all the way up to your neck! Interestingly, the fascia is not only affected by inflammation, it responds to emotional stress as well, which makes it tighter. Acupuncture meridians tend to be located along connective tissue planes between muscles, or between a muscle and bone or tendon.

The acupuncture system and the Direct Current electrical field detected by western scientists both exist essentially in the continuum of liquid crystalline collagen fibers that make up most of the connective tissues. Water layers on the collagen fibers provide proton conduction pathways for rapid intercommunication throughout the body, enabling the organism to function as a coherent whole. This liquid crystalline continuum constitutes a “body consciousness” working in tandem with the “brain consciousness” of the nervous system.

It has been proven that consciousness resides in all the cells of our body; that the brain converts consciousness to other signals. Water aligned with collagen fibers, as the anatomical and functional basis of the acupuncture meridians, is highly probable. That said, the meridian system may be what integrates or coordinates all body systems and may be the basis of all forms of “subtle energy” medicine, the mechanism of action being mediated via quantum coherent liquid crystalline water

Acupuncture does more than reduce pain; it has a pronounced beneficial effect on health. Not only is the physical body affected, emotional and spiritual aspects are enhanced. Patients often notice an improved sense of well–being after treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine continues to be increasingly popular and has countless applications and benefits.

Acupuncture Low Back Disc Protrusion CT Scan Results

Practitioner inserting needle into the paraspinal muscle on lower back

Acupuncture is effective for patients with lumbar disc protrusions. CT scans confirm that acupuncture reduces disc protrusion size and increases healthy space in the spinal canal. Along with relief from nerve compression, investigators conclude that acupuncture improves range of motion and reduces pain for patients with lumbar disc protrusions.

Researchers from the Nanyang Municipal Central Hospital tested two acupoint prescriptions. The results of the investigation demonstrate that both acupuncture point prescriptions that were tested are effective for alleviating lumbar disc protrusions, but one is more effective than the other. We will take a look at both. CT (computed tomography) scans confirm the results, including improvements across multiple parameters (i.e., anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac, sagittal diameter of the spinal canal, nerve root compression ratio). [1]

Patients were evaluated before and after the treatment course. Both subjective and objective instruments were used to measure patient outcomes. The objective data was gathered using CT scans (also known as CAT scans), which are computer-processed X-ray images. The scans demonstrate that acupuncture reduces disc protrusions and alleviates nerve compression. CT images confirmed improvements in the thecal sac anteroposterior diameter and sagittal diameter of the spinal canal as well as the nerve root compression ratio.

Subjective data was gathered with two instruments. First, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) was used to measure functional disability of the lower back. Second, the Japanese Orthopedic Association Lower Back Pain Evaluation Questionnaire (JOABPEQ) was used as an outcome measure for patients with lumbar disc protrusions. Patients demonstrated improvements with both the ODI and JOABPEQ.


The following are results of the ODI and JOABPEQ for two separate groups receiving two different acupuncture treatment point prescriptions. The ODI score for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 23.35 before treatment and 8.34 after treatment. The ODI score for the acupuncture Yao San Zhen (lumbar three needles) treatment group averaged 23.12 before treatment and 5.28 after treatment.

The JOABPEQ score for the standard acupuncture control group was 6.22 before treatment and averaged 17.14 after treatment. The JOABPEQ score for the acupuncture Yao San Zhen (lumbar three needles) treatment group averaged 6.35 before treatment and 21.53 after treatment. The researchers conclude that the Yao San Zhen treatment group outperformed the standard acupuncture control group regarding the improvements of ODI and JOABPEQ scores.

CT Scans

The thecal sac (dural sac) is a sheath around the spinal cord (above L2) and cauda equina. It is composed of dura mater, which is a thick connective tissue membrane. The anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac for the standard acupuncture control group decreased to an average of 35.72 mm after treatment, from a pre-treatment value of 56.44 mm. The anteroposterior diameter for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group averaged 56.35 mm before treatment and 26.14 mm after treatment. These measurements indicate a decrease in the size of the disc protrusions.

The sagittal diameter of the spinal canal for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 6.32 mm before treatment and 11.16 mm after treatment. The sagittal diameter for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group was 6.51 mm before treatment and 14.24 mm after treatment. This parameter is negatively associated with lumbar pain and the improvements are reflected by higher numbers. The Yao San Zhen style of acupuncture outperformed the standard acupuncture protocol.

The nerve root compression ratio for the standard acupuncture control group averaged 0.64 before treatment and 0.48 after treatment. The nerve root compression ratio for the treatment group averaged 0.67 before treatment and 0.32 after treatment. Both groups achieved significant improvements in CT measured parameters. Overall, the improvements were greater for the Yao San Zhen acupuncture treatment group.

Correlation Between ODI and CT

Correlation between ODI and CT parameters (anteroposterior thecal sac diameter, sagittal spinal canal diameter, nerve root compression ratio) for two groups were analyzed. The results showed that the anteroposterior diameter and nerve root compression ratio were positively correlated with ODI scores, while the sagittal diameter of was negatively correlated with ODI scores. The researchers concluded that, “In patients with lumbar disc protrusion, the more severe the nerve root compression, the narrower the sagittal diameter on the CT, and the larger the anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac, the more serious the clinical symptoms.”


A total of 78 patients participated in the study. They were diagnosed and treated for lumbar disc protrusions between January 2016 and January 2017. The following inclusion criteria were applied:

• Meeting the diagnostic criteria for both western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine

• Ages between 20–50 years

• Pain in the lower back and lower extremities

• Confirmed lumbar protrusions by CT or MRI

• Positive straight leg raise (SLR) test

The following exclusion criteria were applied:

• Comorbid tumors, lumbar vertebral spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and spinal compression fractures

• Severe and comorbid blood diseases and coagulation disorders

• Pregnant or lactating

• Neurological or mental diseases

Participants were randomly divided into two groups: Yao San Zhen treatment and standard acupuncture control, with 39 participants in each group. Both groups were equivalent in all relevant demographics. The treatment group was comprised of 26 males and 13 females. The average age of the Yao San Zhen treatment group was 39.21 years. The course of treatment of the Yao San Zhen treatment group was 3.53 months. The control group was comprised of 24 males and 15 females. The average age of the treatment group was 38.37 years. The course of treatment of the treatment group was 3.32 months.

Acupuncture Sessions

Patients from both groups received the following acupuncture points:

• Huatuojiaji

• GB30 (Huantiao) affected side

• BL54 (Zhibian) affected side

• Ashi points

Secondary acupuncture points were added bilaterally based on diagnostic considerations:

• Lower back pain due to cold-dampness: BL39 (Weiyang), GV3 (Yaoyangguan)

• Lower back pain due to damp-heat: GB34 (Yanglingquan), SP6 (Sanyinjiao)

• Lower back pain due to blood stasis: SP10 (Xuehai), BL17 (Geshu)

• Lower back pain due to kidney deficiency: KD3 (Taixi), GV4 (Mingmen)

Acupuncture treatments commenced with patients in a prone position. After disinfection of the acupoint sites, a 40 or 75 mm disposable filiform needle was inserted into each acupoint with a high needle entry speed, reaching a depth of 1–1.5 cun (with the exception of 2–3 cun for Huantiao). After achieving a deqi sensation, the needles were manipulated with the Ping Bu Ping Xie (attenuating and tonifying) technique.

The acupuncture needles were connected to an electroacupuncture device. A low frequency continuous wave (5–10 Hz) was applied with an intensity level set to patient tolerance levels or until muscle contractions were observable. The needles were retained for 30 minutes after the initiation of electric current.

For the treatment group patients, a special acupoint prescription called Yao San Zhen (lumbar three needles) of Jin’s three needling technique was added. This technique was established by Dr. Jin Rui, Ph.D. (chief professor supervisor of Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine). The principle of the technique is to use three needle combinations to treat specific diseases. The Yao San Zhen prescription utilized the following acupoints:

• BL23 (Shenshu)

• BL25 (Dachangshu)

• BL40 (Weizhong)

Needles were inserted into each acupoint with a high needle entry speed, reaching a maximum depth of 1–1.5 cun. Upon the arrival of a deqi sensation, the needles were manipulated with the Ping Bu Ping Xie (attenuating and tonifying) technique. A 30 minute needle retention time was observed. For both groups, treatments were applied every two days, 10 sessions as one treatment course, for a total of 8 weeks.


The clinical results demonstrate that acupuncture produces positive patient outcomes for the treatment of lumbar disc protrusions. Patients that received acupuncture saw improvements in ODI and JOABPEQ scores and parameters measured by CT (i.e., anteroposterior diameter of the thecal sac, sagittal diameter of the spinal canal, nerve root compression ratio). The data indicates that acupuncture is safe and effective for the treatment of lumbar disc protrusions.


[1] Fang F, Wei YX. Clinical observation on lumbar three needles in the treatment of lumbar disc protrusion and imaging changes [J]. World Chinese Medicine, 2018(5).

Why You Should Try Acupuncture—Even If You Don’t Need Pain Relief

The next prescription from your doctor just might be for acupuncture instead of pain meds. As the science increasingly shows that the ancient Chinese therapy can be as effective as drugs, more doctors are acknowledging its legitimacy. At the same time, exciting new discoveries about how acupuncture works are also boosting its standing as a bona fide medical treatment overall. “There’s plenty of quality research supporting the use of acupuncture for a number of health conditions,” says Joseph F. Audette, M.D., the chief of the department of pain management at Atrius Health in Boston and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

For starters, one groundbreaking new study from Indiana University School of Medicine found that acupuncture prompts the release of stem cells, which can help tendons and other tis­sues repair, and also produces anti­-inflammatory substances that are associated with healing. According to research at UCLA Medical Center, the needles cause the skin to trigger the release of molecules of nitric oxide—a gas that improves circulation in the smallest blood vessels in the skin. By carrying substances that can help dull pain and reduce inflam­mation, this microcirculation is essential to the healing process, says Sheng­Xing Ma, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author.

Acupuncture also has a dramatic effect on your nervous sys­tem, calming you down so your body can rejuvenate faster, Dr. Audette says. When a needle is inserted, it stimulates small nerves beneath the skin, setting off a chain reaction that shuts down your fight ­or­ flight response. As a result, your stress lev­els plummet. “It’s basically what’s supposed to happen when you meditate, except it’s even stronger and faster,” Dr. Audette says. “Acupuncture relaxes your muscles, slows your heart rate, and reduces inflammation to promote healing.” (One study found that acupuncture and yoga both relieve back pain.) And it has minimal side effects—there’s a slight risk of minor bleeding and increased pain—so you can’t go wrong trying it. Here’s everything you need to know before scheduling your treatment.

Not All Needles Are Equal

There are three commonly available types of acupuncture: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The basic premise for all is that needles are placed into specific acupunc­ture points thought to relate to corresponding body parts. The main difference is in the needles themselves and the placement of them. Chinese needles are thicker and inserted deeper into the skin; practitioners also tend to use more needles per ses­sion and cover a wider area across the body. The Japanese tech­nique uses thinner needles, which are pushed lightly into the skin, focusing on the abdomen, the back, and a few key spots along the meridian system, a weblike network of acupuncture points throughout your body. In some styles of Korean acupuncture, just four thin needles are used and placed stra­tegically, depending on what condition you’re trying to treat. All three types have benefits, but if you’re nervous about the sensation of the needles, the Japanese or Korean styles may be a good starting point. (Related: Why Does Acupuncture Make Me Cry?)

There’s a New, More Powerful Version

Electroacupuncture is becoming more common in the U.S. In traditional acu­puncture, once the needles are placed in the skin, the practitioner wiggles or manually manipulates them to stim­ulate the nerves. With electroacupunc­ture, an electric current runs between a pair of needles to achieve the same effect. “There’s a lot of evidence show­ ing that electroacupuncture releases endorphins to relieve pain,” Dr. Audette says. “Also, you’re almost guaran­teed a quick response, whereas man­ual acupuncture takes more time and attention.” The only downside? For some new patients, the feeling—a fluttering of the muscles when the current contracts—can take a little get­ting used to. Allison Heffron, a licensed acupuncturist and a chiropractor at Physio Logic, an integrative wellness facility in Brooklyn, says that your practitioner may nudge the current up slowly to help you tolerate it or start with manual acupuncture and then move on to the electro kind after a few sessions so you can acclimate.

There Are More Benefits to Acupuncture Than Just Pain Relief

The analgesic effects of acupuncture are powerful and well studied. But a growing body of research reveals that its bene­fits are more wide-ranging than doctors thought. For instance, allergy sufferers who started acupuncture at the beginning of pollen season were able to stop taking antihistamines nine days sooner on average than those who didn’t use it, according to a study from the Charité—University Hospital Berlin. (Here are more ways to get rid of seasonal allergy symptoms.) Other studies have indicated that the practice may be useful for gut issues, including irritable bowel syndrome.

Recent research has uncovered powerful mental bene­fits of acupuncture as well. It can decrease feelings of stress for up to three months after treatment, according to a study from Arizona State University. The reason for its long­-lasting effects may have to do with the HPA axis, a system that controls our reactions to stress. In an animal study at Georgetown University Medical Center, chronically stressed rats that were given electroacupuncture had significantly lower levels of hormones known to drive the body’s fight ­or­ flight response compared with those that didn’t get the treatment.

And that may be just scratching the surface of what acu­puncture can do. Scientists are also looking into the practice as a way to reduce migraine frequency, improve PMS symp­toms, ease insomnia, boost the effectiveness of depression meds, lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, and reduce side effects of chemotherapy drugs. While much of the research is still in the early stages, it points to a pretty bright future for this ancient treatment.

The Standards Are Higher

As acupuncture becomes more mainstream, the require­ments used to certify practitioners have gotten stricter. “The number of educational hours nonphysicians have to put in to qualify for the board certification test has steadily risen, from 1,700 hours of training to up to 2,100 hours—that’s about three to four years of studying acupuncture,” Dr. Audette says.

If You’re Not Into Needles…Meet, Ear Seeds

The ears have their own network of acupuncture points, Heffron says. Practitioners can needle the ears as they do the rest of your body, or place ear seeds, little adhesive beads that apply pressure to different points, for lasting effects without treatment. “Ear seeds can ease headache and back pain, reduce nausea, and more,” Heffron says. (You can buy the beads online, but Heffron says you should always have them placed by a practitioner. Here’s all the info on ear seeds and ear acupuncture.)