In his book Reinventing Acupuncture (1992), British acupuncturist Felix Mann (1931-2014) diverges from the traditional teachings of TCM. Based on years of clinical observation, Mann offers 8 novel ideas starting with replacing the word ‘acupoint” with the word ‘area’. Through clinical experience, Mann discovered that some of the points that we may think are small are actually very wide. He also wrote that “Half or more of the body can be treated by needling the hand or foot anywhere.”
In his thoughts on “Scientific Acupuncture”, Mann uses neurophysiology to partly explain that the mechanisms of the points/areas and meridians. Indeed, an explanation for ‘how’ acupuncture works has preoccupied practitioners. An early 1997 article in “Acupuncture in Medicine" describes the mechanisms of acupuncture or acupressure at “local, regional (spinal cord) and general (brain) levels”: “The general reaction mainly activates the brain central mechanism of internal homeostasis.”
This explanation, often called the “neural hypothesis” was discussed in a 2010 article “Defining Meridians: A Modern Basis of Understanding”, which states that “…the clinical influence of acupuncture is transmitted primarily through stimulation of sensory nerves that provide signals to the brain, which processes this information and then causes clinical changes associated with treatment.”
In a 2021 study titled “The neuroanatomical basis for electroacupuncture to drive the vagal-adrenal axis”, researchers sought to uncover more precisely the neuroanatomical basis for specific acupoints. Using mice, they identified a subset of neurons effective in reducing inflammation by activating “the vagal adrenal axis.” Researchers pointed out that although the study was done in mice, “the basic organization of neurons is likely evolutionarily conserved across mammals, including humans.”
Another way of understanding acupuncture meridians is as the path of least resistance to the flow of fluid and vibration in the body. Fascia is made of collagen, which is piezoelectric. This means that the electricity of the nervous system makes fascia vibrate. These vibrations can be thought of as qi and linked to the yang principle, and the fluid that is moved by these vibrations is the TCM concept of blood and yin. Fascia is better understood as a part of the nervous system, and the links between myofascial meridians reflect complex reflexes and other circuits linking arm and leg, right and left, inner and outer channels, in humans and all other four-legged creatures. This makes the fascial system as much about information transfer as it is about structural tensegrity.
Viewing acupressure through a western scientific lens may help make this profound and fundamental aspect of human anatomy more accessible to modern medicine. Acupoints and acupuncture meridians are powerful targets for stimulating the body’s innate healing system, and can be stimulated using many different modalities, including manual pressure, moxibustion, cupping, needle insertion, injections, essential oils, or even simple tapping, and they can be further targeted using frequency information, delivered via vibrational medicine therapies like Ergopathics vials, bioresonance devices, homeopathic remedies, affirmations and other carriers of frequency information.