Introduction to Neuropuncture’s Theory and Development
Neuropuncture is a special system of acupuncture that combines neuroscience, other Western medical sciences, and current evidence-based acupuncture clinical research with the classical TCM acupuncture model. It is my belief that a deeper understanding of acupuncture’s underlying mechanisms empowers the practitioner with knowledge in treatment. Once we understand these mechanisms, we can apply these findings in the area of diagnosis and treatment of pain cases, internal medicine cases, sports medicine cases, and orthopedics; and this is truly only the beginning. Understanding these concepts creates an extremely effective approach to modulating the nervous system. Finally, we can intentionally target specific receptors for the release of particular neuropeptides, reset dysfunctional visceral autonomic reflexes for improved organ function, and depolarize excited, overstimulated nerve roots for pain management. Neuropuncture works by predominantly targeting and stimulating specific neuro-tissue.
When we take a look back to 5000+ years ago when TCM was being developed, the physicians of that time did not have the understandings and advancements in the study of anatomy and physiology, cellular biology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, and especially neuroscience that we have benefited from in the past 75 years. When these new scientific models are applied to classical TCM acupuncture theory, the “Ah-ha” light bulb goes on, and a lot of the mystery and smoke clears away, revealing an absolutely amazing neuro-medical treatment modality. Neuropuncture is the outcome of the weaving of two very different but also very similar medical theoretical sciences: Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Western neuroscience.
Acupoints, meridians, and neuroscience
Let’s look at an example: LI4, He Gu, is a very popular acupuncture point in TCM with many functions and traditional indications ranging from any pathology in the face, teeth, throat, neck, stomach, and intestines, to specifics such as headaches, redness with swelling and pain in the eye, epistaxis, toothache, facial swelling, sore throat, contracture of the fingers, pain in the arm, trismus, facial paralysis, febrile diseases with anhidrosis, hidrosis, amenorrhea, delayed labor, abdominal pain, constipation, and dysentery (Cheng & Deng, 1999). Many texts refer to its benefits; for example, Maciocia (1989, p.376) notes that “it can be used in many painful conditions located anywhere in the body” and “it has a strong influence on the face and eyes…and is often used as a distal point when treating problems of the face, including the mouth, nose, and eyes.” It is known variously as He Gu, Joining Valley, Uniting One’s Mouth, Tiger’s Mouth, and Holding Mouth (Bensky & O’Connor, 1991).
Acupuncture point LI4 is located in the dorsal interosseous muscle, between the first and second metacarpal bones; its deep position is in the transverse head of the adductor pollicis muscle (Bensky & O’Connor, 1991). It has a radius of about the same size as a dime, nickel, or a quarter, depending on the patient. TCM uses a unique body measuring system to locate an indvidual’s acupuncture points (from early times TCM observed differences in anatomy from patient to patient, just as this is confirmed today with autopsies, gross and molecular anatomy, and physiology). The TCM Large Intestine meridian travels up the radial side of the arm and into the face. When we apply all of these findings, we begin to understand the deeper mechanisms of LI4. What we find is that the afferent delta fibers of the superficial radial nerve travel under and through the classical TCM acupuncture point LI4/He Gu, which is supplied by a dorsal branch of the radial nerve, and in its deep position by a palmar digital branch of the median nerve (Bensky & O’Connor, 1991). The radial branch, He Gu’s main innervation, branches from and creates a large part of the brachial plexus of C5–T1 (Rohen, Yokochi & Lutjen-Drecoll, 2003). It also has A-delta fibers that terminate in the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus is stimulated, beta-endorphins are released, which then stimulate the periaqueductal gray (PAG), creating a strong systemic pain-relieving effect (White, Cummings & Filshie, 2008). The fact that the brachial branch innervates C5–T