In the last few months there have been several different research articles published by different research teams stating that they have found unique anatomical structures and differences in the areas of acupuncture points compared to non-acupuncture point areas of the body.
In December of last year, researchers found “vessel-like” bundles of neurotransmitter rich nerve fibers located around blood vessels located at acupuncture points. The neurotransmitter, CRPG or Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide, is related to a variety of cardiovascular functions and the regulation of pain pathways in the nervous system.
Another research team using specialized CT scans found microvascular bundles, essentially a dense area of very tiny blood vessels, in the areas around acupuncture points that were not present in areas of the body not associated with acupuncture points. These findings were replicated by several research groups using the same or similar methods of imaging, all showing unique anatomical structures found only on acupuncture points.
A third set of findings used analysis of variations in the pressure of oxygen in the blood vessels to show that acupuncture points are clearly areas of higher oxygen pressure when compared to surrounding areas of the body. These results were found on un-needled points, meaning that acupuncture points are active in different ways that other areas of the body even at rest.
A fourth group of researchers demonstrated that there are unique neuroanatomical structures related to both myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers present in acupuncture points that are not found in other tissues. These researchers noted that the different types of structures found in these areas could be responsible for blocking pain signals going to the brain as well as sending different regulatory signals to the brain at the same time, possibly explaining why acupuncture can have both immediate and long lasting effects.
All of these findings combine to show a very interesting picture of acupuncture points as having a unique anatomical structure consisting of dense bundles of nerve tissue, micro-blood vessels, and neurotransmitter rich tissues in an high-oxygen environment that are different from the surrounding tissues. This combined with the more recent theory of purinergic signaling, which states that acupuncture may work by the release of neurotransmitters that travel to the areas of the brain that control the heart, lungs, digestive and reproductive areas of the brain, as well as the neuropathways associated with pain when acupuncture needles are inserted and stimulated, are the beginnings of a comprehensive and evidence-based model of acupuncture points and how acupuncture works on a chemical/neurological/and biological level.
I hope that as more and more research like this comes out that more and more healthcare systems will begin to take complementary approaches to medicine and healthcare, where western medicine and alternatives like acupuncture and herbal medicine are combined so that patient can get the best care possible and have the best outcomes.
A great summary of the above research findings with a little more in-depth information can be found here.
If you are interested in learning more about Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture or would like some more information about research, or if you would like to know if acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I would love to speak with you!