Chinese Medicine Demystified (Part 5): Acupuncture Over Drugs

Chinese Medicine Demystified (Part VI): 5 Ways Acupuncture Can Help You Where Drugs and Surgery Can’t

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Note: This is the sixth article in an ongoing series. If you haven’t read the first five, I recommend doing that before continuing:

Most people in the US don’t know much about acupuncture. They might have heard it’s good for pain, that it can treat infertility, or that it can help you relax. What most people don’t realize is that acupuncture is a more complete and effective method of healthcare than western medicine.

Here’s why.

#1: Acupuncture treats your whole body

Acupuncture isn’t directed toward a particular disease or condition. It works instead by activating the body’s self-healing ability. This is why acupuncture can address everything from irritable bowel syndrome to back pain to the side effects of chemotherapy.

When you get an acupuncture treatment for elbow pain, your elbow pain will go away but it’s also likely that you’ll see improvements in other areas. The headaches you’ve had for ten years will get better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll be better able to handle stress, and you’ll sleep better.

The reason acupuncture can do this is that it focuses on treating the root cause of your health problems. The ancient Chinese knew that symptoms don’t arise out of nowhere. Symptoms are manifestations of an underlying malfunction and disease process.

The progression from malfunction > disease process > symptom can take many years. If you just address the symptom without addressing the malfunction or disease process, healing doesn’t occur.

The Chinese also knew that a malfunction or disease process can give rise to many different symptoms that may seem unrelated. For example, headaches, heartburn and skin rashes may all be expressions of the same underlying problem.

Western medicine, on the other hand, often mistakes symptoms for disease. Treatment is almost always directed at the symptom, not the disease. Western medicine is based on the Cartesian paradigm that has dominated both scientific and philosophical views of the body for the past three hundred years. This philosophy created the notion that the body is a machine composed of many separate parts, and that health can be achieved by simply addressing each part in isolation. There is no consideration for how the parts are connected and related.

This is why in western medicine we have doctors for every different part of our body. We’ve got cardiologists for our hearts, gastroenterologists for our guts, podiatrists for our feet, gynecologists for female reproductive organs, neurologists for our brains, etcetera. We’ve carved our body up into various parts and put different doctors in charge of taking care of each part. In a perfect medical system these doctors would be communicating frequently and sharing ideas about their patients. While this does happen in some cases, all too often it doesn’t. I don’t believe this is the fault of the doctors themselves. They are as much victims of the deficiencies of our healthcare system as patients are.

Acupuncturists have a different perspective, because Chinese medicine is based not on Cartesian dualism but on Chinese philosophy, which is inherently holistic. Acupuncturists look at the body as one interconnected whole. From this viewpoint it is impossible to consider a specific part (like the knee, or the heart) without considering it in relation to the whole.

This is of course much more consistent with what we know about how ecological and biological systems (which the body is an example of) operate. And it explains why a single therapy like acupuncture can treat your entire body at the same time.

#2: Acupuncture cures disease

What is a cure? One definition is that a cure has been achieved when the treatment is removed and the dysfunction or illness doesn’t come back.

With the exception of antibiotics, chemotherapy and selective surgery, western medicine does not cure disease. It suppresses symptoms.

How do we know this? If you take a drug for a problem you generally have to take it for the rest of your life. The problem doesn’t go away – it’s being suppressed by the drug. The drug has just replaced a certain function of your body. But as soon as you stop taking that drug, the problem will come back. And often it will be worse than before.

Blood pressure medication is the perfect example of this. It will certainly lower your blood pressure, but it doesn’t do anything to fix whatever was causing your high blood pressure in the first place. People find this out the hard way when they try to stop taking their medication, and their blood pressure skyrockets to a level higher than it was before they started taking the drug.

Why does the problem get worse after taking a drug? Because drugs don’t only suppress symptoms. Drugs also suppress functions. Though drugs provide symptom relief in the short term, over time they may worsen the underlying condition because they interfere with our body’s self-healing mechanisms.

For example, many people take ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to cope with arthritis and inflammatory conditions. While NSAIDs are effective in reducing pain and inflammation in the short-term, they are also known to reduce blood flow to cartilage. Since blood carries all of the nutrients and immune substance necessary for tissue repair, NSAIDs can actually worsen the original problem when taken chronically.

Drugs also have side effects. Drugs may correct a specific imbalance, but in the process they cause at least one other and often several other imbalances. When this happens in western medicine, other drugs are prescribed to address the side effects caused by the first drug – and so on until the patient ends up on a cocktail of drugs treating the side effects of drugs. (See my article Problem With Your Pill? Take Another Pill! for more on this phenomenon.)

There’s nothing wrong with symptom relief. Anyone who has suffered from a debilitating health condition can tell you that. I believe that symptom suppression with medication is necessary, and even life saving, in certain cases. The problem occurs when symptom suppression with drugs takes the place of other approaches (such as nutritional and lifestyle changes) that address the root of the condition.

Acupuncture, unlike most drugs, has the potential to cure disease. Why? Because as I mentioned above, acupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanisms. And the body’s ability to heal itself far surpasses anything western medicine has to offer.

The discovery of antibiotics is certainly one of the greatest achievements of medicine (though not without problems, as the recent phenomenon of antibiotic resistance indicates). However, these medications are like children’s toys compared with the extraordinary complexity of the immune system’s ability to heal disease.

The body is capable of spontaneously healing wounds, regenerating tissue, neutralizing toxins, and keeping cancer cells at bay – all while we catch the latest episode of Lost on TV or pick up the kids from soccer practice.

As evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald puts it:

Put bluntly, medicine’s success at vaccination and antibiotic treatment are trivial accomplishments relative to natural selection’s success at generating the immune system… We will probably obtain much better disease control by figuring out how to further tweak the immune system and capitalize on its vastly superior abilities than by relying on some human invention such as new antimicrobials (antibiotics, antivirals or antiprotozoal agents).1

Acupuncture does just that: it “tweaks” the immune system and capitalizes on the body’s vastly superior ability to heal itself. That is the strength of acupuncture. However, this strength can also be a limitation. Since acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s built-in healing capacity, if that capacity is impaired or damaged (by poor nutrition, excessive stress, etc.) then the healing power of acupuncture will be limited.

#3: Acupuncture prevents disease

The superior physician makes it his prerogative to treat disease when it has not yet structurally manifested, and prevents being in the position of having to treat disorders that have already progressed to the realm of the physical. The low level physician finds himself salvaging what has already manifested in physical form, and treating what is already ruined. 2

Amazingly enough, this quote comes from a medical text in China written 2,500 years ago! The idea of “preventative medicine” has received a lot of attention in the west during the past decade. But as the quote above indicates, the Chinese have been aware of the importance of preventative medicine for thousands of years.

Acupuncture and the other branches of Chinese medicine (nutrition, herbal medicine, tai qi, qi gong) restore homeostasis and keep the body functioning at an optimal level. When the body is functioning at an optimal level, we’re far less likely to get sick, and far more likely to recover quickly when we do get sick.

Another way to put it: acupuncture is an effective method of healthcare.

Healthcare, which may be defined as a method of promoting and maintaining health, is not the focus of our current medical system. A more accurate term for the focus of Western medicine would be disease management.

Disease management is important and we certainly need it in the modern world. Yet it’s a mistake to confuse disease management with healthcare. They aren’t the same thing at all.

Western medicine is focused on the treatment of serious disease. Many of the tests, for example, performed in western medicine will not be triggered as abnormal unless the person being tested is already very sick. If a person goes to see a doctor complaining of headaches, digestive problems, fatigue and insomnia, the doctor will run some tests. If the tests come back “normal”, the patient is told that there’s nothing wrong with them! But of course the patient knows that’s not true. They know it’s not normal to have all those problems, and they know that something is wrong.

In fact, until recently doctors thought serious health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia, and physiological changes related to normal life stages like menopause, were “all in the patient’s head”.

Why is western medicine so oriented towards serious disease? Part of the reason is that there is no concept of health in western medicine.

If you look in the index of any western medical textbook, you’re not going to find a definition of health. Doctors don’t study health, and what it takes to be healthy, in medical school. They study diseases and the drugs that are used to treat those diseases. This puts western medicine at a serious disadvantage when it comes to promoting health.

I want to emphasize that I am making generalizations here. There are surely many doctors (and I have seen quite a few of them myself) that are deeply committed to the health and well-being of their patients, recognize the interconnectedness of the body and mind, emphasize the importance of preventative care, and prescribe nutritional and lifestyle changes to their patients. In particular I see this with many younger doctors who have graduated from medical school in the past ten to fifteen years. They tend to be much more open-minded to alternatives to drugs and surgery, and more inclined to recommend these alternatives when appropriate. This is an encouraging trend in medicine.

#4: Acupuncture makes your life better

The goal of Chinese medicine is to improve your quality of life and keep you healthy right up until the end. This means you’re rock climbing, snowboarding, playing with your grandchildren, or doing whatever else you enjoy until you pass away in your sleep at a ripe old age.

Western medicine, on the other hand, is focused on the treatment of serious, life-threatening conditions. It is an unsurpassed intervention for trauma and acute emergencies. Doctors can achieve almost miraculous feats to keep people alive, including reattaching severed limbs and literally bringing people back from the dead. It’s also true that antibiotics have nearly eliminated the risk of dying from the infections that were the primary cause of death all the way up until the mid-20th century, and that medications like insulin for Type 1 Diabetes have made a normal life possible for people who otherwise would have died at an early age. These interventions have extended our average lifespan considerably, and their contributions to our quality of life shouldn’t be underestimated.

So I’m certainly not “against” Western medicine. Believe me, if I get in a car accident or someday have a heart attack, I’ll go straight to the hospital. However, if I were to develop type 2 diabetes, I would begin by changing my diet because in many cases type 2 diabetes can be completely controlled with diet alone. (Of course it’s very unlikely that I will ever get diabetes, because my diet and lifestyle make it virtually impossible for that kind of blood sugar dysregulation to occur.) These examples explain my guiding principle in making decisions about my health care: for any given condition, I will choose the treatment that does the most good and causes the least harm. In my experience, acupuncture and Chinese medicine fits this guiding principle far more often than drugs and surgery.

#5: Acupuncture won’t kill you or make you sick

Primum non nocere, or “first, do no harm” is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics that students are taught in medical school. Another way to state this principle is, “given an existing problem, it may be better to do nothing than to do something that risks causing more harm than good.”

Somewhere along the line this important precept got swept under the rug. While western medicine has made tremendous contributions to disease management, it has also proven to be dangerous to our health.

We may have the most advanced disease management system in the world, but the US is far behind most other industrialized countries when it comes to health. The U.S. ranks just 34th in the world in life expectancy and 29th for infant mortality. Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from bottom) for 16 available health indicators. 3

Even worse, a recent study (PDF) by Dr. Barbara Starfield published in 2000 in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that medical care is the 3rd leading cause of death in this country, causing more than 250,000 deaths per year. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people. Although this study was published in one of the most reputable medical journals in the world, it received little media attention and my guess is that few doctors have heard of it.

Dr. Starfield estimates that, each year, medical errors and adverse effects of the health care system are responsible for:

  • 116 million extra physician visits
  • 77 million extra prescriptions
  • 17 million emergency department visits
  • 8 million hospitalizations
  • 3 million long-term admissions
  • 199,000 additional deaths
  • $77 billion in extra costs

As grim as they are, these statistics are likely to be seriously underestimated as only about 5 to 20% of medical-care related incidents are even recorded. Analyses which have taken these oversights into consideration estimate that medical care is in fact the leading cause of death in the U.S. each year. 4

I ask you this: can a medical system that potentially kills more people each year than any other cause of death else be considered “healthcare”?

In contrast to western medicine, acupuncture is extremely safe and well-tolerated. A recent cumulative review published in the British Medical Journal examined the incidence of adverse effects with acupuncture in more than one million treatments.

According to the evidence from these studies, the risk of a serious adverse event with acupuncture is estimated to be 0.0005% per 10,000 treatments, and 0.0055% per 10,000 individual patients.

The authors conclude:

The risk of serious events occurring in association with acupuncture is very low, below that of many common medical treatments. The range of adverse events reported is wide and some events, specifically trauma and some episodes of infection, are likely to be avoidable.

The incidence of milder side effects during acupuncture is also relatively low. In a study of 230,000 patients who received an average of 10 treatments each, 8.6% reported experiencing at least one adverse effect and 2.2% reported one which required treatment. Common adverse effects were bleedings or hematoma (6.1% of patients, 58% of all adverse effects), pain (1.7%) and drowsiness (0.7%).

To put that in perspective, a review of more than a hundred phase I double-blind, placebo-controlled trials reported that 19% of those receiving placebo experienced side effects, with higher rates following repeated dosing and in the elderly. 5

This suggests that placebos (sugar pills) may cause more side effects than acupuncture.

I hope this article has helped you to understand the power of acupuncture and Chinese medicine and its relevance as a genuine system of healthcare. And I hope this series of articles has made clear that acupuncture is not a “woo-woo” energy therapy, but a complete system of medicine based on known anatomical and physiological principles.

I would love to hear your feedback on how these articles have affected your perception and understanding of acupuncture. Please leave a comment!

If you’d like to refer people to this series of posts in the future, I’ve created a special “acupuncture” page on the blog with an index of all of the articles in the series. It’s listed on the right hand side of the page, in the sidebar, under “Health Reports”.

  1. Ewald, P. Plague Time. p.64
  2. See chapter 2 of the Suwen, in Nanjing Zhongyi Xueyuan, ed., Huangdi neijing suwen yishi (An Annotated Text With Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine: Plain Questions) (Shanghai: Shanghai Kexue Jishu Chubanshe, 1991), p. 16;
  3. Starfield B. Primary Care: Balancing Health Needs, Services, and Technology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1998.
  4. General Accounting Office study sheds light on nursing home abuse. July 17, 2003. Available at: http://www.injuryboard.com/view.cfm/Article=3005. Accessed December 17, 2003
  5. Rosenzweig P, Brohier S, Zipfel A. The placebo effect in healthy volunteers: influence of experimental conditions on the adverse events profile during phase I studies. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1993;54:578-83.
  1. I am very much interested in going to an acupuncturist now that I know there is science to back it up. You mentioned that students are currently being taught incorrectly in the sense that qi means energy. Are these acupuncturists still qualified/capable of adequately performing the job if they lack this basic understanding? I want to have the treatment done but only by someone who knows what they’re doing, and it sounds like there may be a limited number of those who do. Any approved/recommended people or clinics that I should look into?

  2. I just finished reading your 5-part series. Chris – thank you so much for your care and commitment. This is the best article(s) I have ever read regarding acupuncture. I did not realize how much I did not know or understand. I feel so empowered. I wish this information could be distributed nationwide (even worldwide) for everyone to read and understand. Many, many thanks.

  3. I was interested in your article because I know it works, but I didn’t know how. I am not surprised to hear that we all agree on the basics of the body and how it works, but I am glad to have words for it. Now I can explain what I am seeing: I have watched my dog respond to acupuncture and TCM herbal medicines. Dogs don’t do placebo, they don’t know why they are being stuck with needles. Around a year ago I was told to prepare to put him down within a year or so due to serious kidney problems ( by that time he had only 10% function left despite dietary treatments). Now his blood values are so good, you cannot see the kidney problem at all and he does not seem to have any symptoms either. So I started a course of acupuncture for my own ailments. Since yesterday’s session (not the first) I do not have pain in my feet. It’s the first time in around 10 years. I feel clearer and more focused and I am more resilient to physical activity than I was before (I do not have fibromyalgia pain after it). I didn’t try to do sports yet, which is my goal, but I have belief that it is going to work, given enough time.

  4. Spot on with “Acupuncture won’t kill you or make you sick”. Actually people have listen random lies over the internet from those who don’t even know that there is a hell of a difference between traditional drugs (side-effects) and acupuncture (a more holistic approach).

  5. The meridians are real and can be seen in deep meditation. They are a blueprint that is formed at the moment of conception (the conception and governing vessels are first), and give rise to all tissues. They are the reason we have eyeballs in the right places, limbs, organs and everything else correctly placed, correctly sized, etc. Technology will reveal more and more of this system over time, as it is doing now, but pure awareness will always trump technologies that are fundamentally disconnected from our physiologies, and will always represent second-hand knowledge. The blood vessels are the offspring of the meridians. In ancient China, as today, there were externally-oriented, materially-minded “scientists” as well as introspective “seekers” and monks. Physical discoveries were highly valued, as they are today, and were more valuable to the majority of people for whom deep introspection is difficult, frightening, or considered to be of no value due to their conditioning, socialization and value systems. In other words, ancient, “physical world” scientists were making discoveries, and writing about them, that validated the discoveries of those that preferred to go directly to the source. This is the same today. When I first witnessed the meridian system over 30 years ago, I was a narrow-minded, anti-alternative medicine, pre-med student in embryology class. I was fascinated with embryonic cells travelling along “invisible” pathways prior to differentiation. Scientists were calling these pathways “chemical trails”, although they had not yet discovered the chemicals, and they did not care where the trails came from. I contemplated this phenomenon so deeply that I inadvertently entered a deep, meditative state and had the answer to my question. I saw the blueprint. I felt it, smelled it, heard it and tasted it, although not with my external senses but rather with the roots of our senses, described in detail, in Ayurveda and Yoga, neither of which I knew about or gave a damn about prior to this experience. I have “seen” the meridians many times. I think it is best to honor the ancient physical scientists and use physical, scientific language to describe acupuncture, as this will allow our modern scientists to come to an understanding of what we do, which hopefully will result in less oppression of this ancient, but ironically most advanced form of medicine. I have learned the hard way that it is best to reserve my understanding of energy systems for those that care to learn it and are capable of understanding it, while using validated, physical-medicine terminology with those that prefer to operate at that level. It’s a tricky dance sometimes, as I’m always chomping at the bit to share all that I’ve learned, but as usual, it’s best to meet people where they are, and help them to the extent that they allow me to do so. I love this physical side of the equation as much as the energetic side. It was the physical side that drew me into medicine in the first place, and it’s the energetic side that revealed to me our potential to heal which is, of course, unlimited…

    • Hi Douglas,
      I am very intrigued by your description of the meridians as a “blueprint”. I have recently been looking into epigenetics as discussed by bruce lipton and he describes dna as a blueprint for creating proteins. I spend a lot of time trying to discern analogous concepts that relate across disciplines. Your background would suggest we might have much in common. I agree that direct experience is primal in truth but translating direct experience to knowledge is exceedingly difficult as so many spiritual traditions demonstrate. I am very curious if you “saw” the meridians in the same way they are typically drawn i.e. physically interconnected to each other as we think of when we discuss blood vessels. If the meridians provide a blueprint for the blood vessels do they follow them in a direct way? I have many more questions but will leave you with this. Do you see a direct connection between the energetic systems we perceive through spirit leading, reiki, qigong, or other similar techniques and the physical sensory systems of our body?

  6. That is a very clear explanation of chinese medicine, thank you. It would be great if you could do an article on demystifying kinesiology.
    Thank you

  7. Good articles!

    But I suggest you read “The Spark in the Machine”. That book explains how connective tissue unfolds in predictable perfect patterns during our embryonic development that easily explain the meridian zone theory. Because connective tissue acts like a semiconductor, it keeps zones separate from each other yet connected throughout the whole.

    Kresser writes very well about important stuff to know about how acupuncture works and I appreciate this blog very much!

    But he is ignoring recent developments in TCM theory that have nothing to do with bad translations by non medical westerners.

    Meridian theory is not a result of misinterpreted classic texts but was developed by the Chinese themselves BASED on those same classic texts and more recent research.

  8. Above all, l want to make it clear that I am not a purist kind of Oriental Medicine student. But I’d like to point out something you may overlook.

    I really enjoyed reading the series of your fabulous articles even though I had difficulties understanding the Western physiology substances you introduced to explain how acupuncture works. I appreciate your own interpretation of the mechanism of acupuncture and I agree on your point to a great degree. However, you eventually became self-contradictory by making an unintentional mistake of protecting what HDNJ explains in an earlier article and then deny the existence of meridians in the traditional sense and their system as they are described in HDNJ. Besides, your version of acupuncture mechanism is not enough to explain not only all the sophisticated techniques spelled out in HDNJ but also other acupunctures , such as ear, scalp, hand, eye, and tongue acupunctures which are all practiced and prove to work well and even better in some cases in China and other Asian countries.

    I am of the opinion that when we do this kind of discussion, we do not need to talk about HDNJ as if it was a perfect medical book with no mistakes. We do not have to accommodate the nationalistic Chinese interpretation of HDNJ. As Dr. Paul Unschuld pointed out many times in his book there are many unreasonable explanations and descriptions.

    Unless we start from criticizing HDNJ, which contains lots of clumsy applications of doctrines and understandings of human biology(it is, however, natural because they did not have sophisticated tools and instrument with which they could observe human body) we cannot evolve. Oriental Medicine has been stagnated for a long time since we deal with HDNJ as a “Bible”, which is totally a Chinese thing.

  9. Hey Chris

    I’d just to say that I have been tossing up with studying TCM, and this series of articles really inspired me. Thanks for writing this. Taking away the myth of the energetic system (while not totally dismissing it) did something for me. Thanks

  10. Chris makes some nice historical corrections and brings up good points about the quasi insignificant risks risks carried by acupuncture and the need for preventative health strategies.

    Problem is, acupuncture doesn’t seem to have much of an effect, if any at all, when compared to placebos http://www.dcscience.net/Colquhoun-Novella-A&A-2013.pdf. So, although it may not be harmful, if it doesn’t REALLY work, and one decides go down that road, the opportunity cost of NOT trying out different medical (including lifestyle) interventions may be significant.

    It is nice to demystify ‘Chinese medicine’ but this should not be taken as supporting evidence for acupunture’s supposed effects.

  11. Damn, I found this thread this late, so probably nobody listening anymore, but I make a try. So,

    Chris,

    thank you for the intriguing series. I am almost convinced, but not quite, because your message seems to run against some of the basic notions of quigong I am familiar with. If there is no qi (meant as some prana-like energy thing) then what about the three dantians? It seems hard to me to interpretate these supposed stores of Qi in terms of Qi = oxygen, What about the central channel that connects the dantians (another “imaginary meridian”), and the exercises like Chanzo that are supposed to activate this channel?

    What is more, I have just read your reply to a comment (April 26, 2010) in which you mention the lung channel and the large intestine channel. Now I am severely confused: did you not meant to say in the series that these channels aka meridians are just Western fabrications?

    Thanks in advance
    Zoltan

    • I agree on the premise that acupuncture is a really good form of treatment but qi does exist and the reason why we can not discern it is because it is blocked from normal consciusness.

      • Qi in HDNJ is simple. They did not understand the human physiology as we do now but they did understand something was going on in the human body. They called this Qi. In TCM the term Qi is polysemous. Certainly, we can detect one thing in common in all the Qis HDNJ addressed. That is, they used the term Qi when they did not know what the thing or phenomenon was, which they presumed or inferred to exist. So we can replace the term Qi with the modern words which fits best in each context.

  12. Modern physics tells us matter and energy are interchangeable. Particle physics strongly suggests that what we call “matter” is “energy” in a stabilized form. We still don’t really know what that “energy” is, but we know something about the characteristics it may possess, and we give those characteristics names like: positive or negative charge, spin, and color. We talk about their orbital velocity. We note that they all are both particle and wave. We note that sub-atomic particles are not little billiard balls, but waves of potential that will temporarily collapse into solid-seeming objects when they interact with other particles. We talk about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Pauli Exclusion Principle in our efforts to understand how the universe works. All are terms we made up to describe the behaviors we perceive.

    With that in mind, implying the belief that Qi is an “energy” (and putting “energy” in scoff quotes) is clearly an example of materialist reductionism. Every atom, every molecule, every biochemical substance you mention is also “energy”.

    Similarly, Yin and Yang are “energy”. The Five Elements are “energy”. Since these and other related concepts are significant concepts in Chinese Medicine… you expose both the shallowness of your understanding of Chinese Medicine and your ignorance of Quantum Theory. It is no particular flaw to be ignorant of these things, but it is preposterously presumptuous of you to explain Chinese Medicine to other people when you understand it so poorly yourself.

    If you did the same with other subjects (which you do not, as far as I can tell) your entire endeavor would be nothing more than one more bullshit, self-serving website offering stuff for sale and bad advice.

    I believe you add considerable value to people’s quest for good health and quality of life. That’s why I wrote this.

    • Thankyou for this comment! As a TCM practitioner of over a decade, an avid student of Qi Gong for several decades, & a lover of science but especially physics my entire life, I often explain Qi in a similar fashion to what you have just expressed. In my many years training & experience, I personally do feel there is Qi, and Channels through which you can alter the movement of Qi to enact change on the more physical aspects of matter as well as the more intangible. I like the perspectives that Chris is offering as a way of interpreting the Western Science understanding of acupuncture, Qi & “how it works” but do feel it is a little limited. Western Science has yet to uncover the deeper aspects in their attempts to understand & put in a box just what it is that acupuncture & Qi is/can do. Great that there are studies demonstrating several aspects so far, but still a long way to go. I think this series of articles just touches the surface, hopefully with more time & investigations western science will begin to understand just how much more is involved

      • In another interesting study, researchers used an amperometric oxygen microsensor to detect partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations on the anterior aspect of the wrist. The researchers concluded that partial oxygen pressure is significantly higher at acupuncture points. Below are images from the study measuring the increase of partial oxygen pressure combined with an overlay of the local acupuncture point locations. The images map the Lung, Pericardium and Heart channels and their associated local points. Acupuncture points P7 and P6 clearly show high oxygen pressure levels as do the other acupuncture points in the region. These measurements are not needled points but are natural resting states of acupuncture points absent stimulation. A truly unique finding, acupuncture points exhibit special oxygen characteristics. Acupuncture points and acupuncture channels are scientifically measurable phenomena in repeated experiments. – See more at: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1230-new-ct-scans-reveal-acupuncture-points#sthash.BVN7y52V.dpuf

  13. Hi Chris,

    I work in sports medicine. I spent the better part of 13 years handing out Advil like candy. I took a few years off and am now returning.
    Standard practice for and initial injury such as an ankle sprain is RICE rest, ice, compression, and elevation. With that is usually a dosage of NSAIDs as well. During my time off I have turned my life to a more holistic approach. For chronic issues I know diet and fish oils are used to reduce systemic inflammation. Do you have any suggestions on alternatives for acute injuries? I just listened to your podcast regarding Asprin but that usually isn’t what is used in a sports med situation. Thank ou for your time! Cheers!
    Beth

  14. If the muscle pains were caused by sprain or strain, then we should look closely to and study the muscles. We know that a muscle was only made for contraction. It will return to its relaxed position after each contraction. If not, one will get a cramp.

    What happens if a muscle was stretched and not return to the relaxed position? Well, one will get a muscle pain. Instead of given a painkiller to get rid of the pain, one must find a way to relax the muscle. So, the muscle can be returned to its relaxed position.

    The body human has a reflexo-point for every area which has a pain. For that being said, there is a sore point for an area where a pain is taken place. Instead of treating the area in pain, the sore point is where the acupressure of acupuncture should be applied.

    This is my experience, I had a pain in my neck from knife throwing. I had the neck pain for two years, especially with a backpack on my back on the Great Wall of China. After I’ve come back to the US, I had decided to do something about.

    What I did was bought this book on acupuncture and moxibustion. There are few ways to stimulate the acupoints by acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion and electrical stimulation. I had chose the acupressure method by using a acupressure hook applying pressure to some points on the shoulder blade and along the edge of the shoulder blade. What a miracle, my pain in the neck was almost gone immediately.

    If one has opened a book on the nervous system, one will find that the brachial plexus is connected to lots of nerves in the neck. By stimulating the sore points(reflexopoints) on the shoulder blade, it will definitely relax the muscles in the neck as in my case.

    There is another case, many many years ago, I had tried to remove the oil filter on my car and overstretched the nerves on my small back. It was impossible to return my back muscles to the relaxed position. So, what I have done was using a wide rubber band strapped around my waist to apply acupressure and use my body temperature which builds up around the band to act as moxibustion. With the acupressure and the moxibustion methods, they helped me to live like a normal person and able to lift weights with no problem. However, if I have removed the waist band, then I feel more pain and not able to lift heavy weights again.

    My wife has various occupational pains allover her body from time to time. I had applied acupressure, many times, on her to release her pains before bed. So, she could have a good night sleep without pain.

    If one have studied the books closely enough, then one will realize that the acupoints on the meridians are riding along on all the nerves in our nervous system. Thus when a needle was applied to an acupoint, actually, it was only a nerve has being stimulated. However, each meridian can be correlated to a nerve in our body is so desired. Indeed, it is no longer a mystery to all of us anymore.

  15. Wow! Those articles on acupuncture were awesome. I definitely want to try it for some problems I have. It just makes a lot of sense to me.

    How can I locate an acupuncture physician here in Brevard County Florida that has similar training and understanding that you have?