Investigate whether the “qi” of acupuncture really exists
Acupuncture has its roots in China and has been around for thousands of years.
However, this treatment has become fashionable internationally, and it is still a thing in recent years.
However, even if acupuncture became popular, some people suspected that it was just a blind eye.
Over the years, researchers have found that simply piercing the needle on the skin does seem to reduce the pain of some patients and stimulate a series of amazing physiological activities.
However, this technique obviously has a strong placebo effect, that is, its efficacy is likely to come from psychological comfort.
How to distinguish the neurobiological and psychological effects of acupuncture is a difficult point for researchers in this field.
Does “qi” exist?
Traditional Chinese medicine theory uses the concept of “qi” to explain acupuncture.
Qi is the energy of a person’s life. It follows a specific meridian to run through the body. This interruption of the running process leads to disease.
It is said that in more than 350 acupuncture points, qi can flood the surface of the skin, and acupuncturists use these points to affect the flow of energy, restore the body’s balance, and cure diseases.
If you want to define acupuncture accurately and scientifically, you also need to solve one problem: Many countries that have learned this method of treatment have their own distinct acupuncture methods.
The acupuncture points used in French, Japanese, and Korean versions are different for each disease, and the tools used to stimulate the points are also varied, including thermal stimulation, pressure stimulation, and even lasers.
However, the most famous and most studied is the traditional method of piercing the skin with a silver needle and then applying electrical or manual stimulation.
Another problem is that so far, no one has been able to find anatomical or physical biological structures to correspond to “qi” and the meridians that it operates.
Although the existence of “qi” cannot be proved, there is still a lot of evidence that acupuncture can indeed affect biological functions.
Among them, the analgesic effect is the most thoroughly studied.
The earliest breakthrough came from Han Jisheng of the Neuroscience Research Center of Peking University, China.
In the 1970s and 1980s, his research team discovered that when the body is stimulated by a needle, it releases a natural endogenous analgesic, endorphins.
He gave a group of rats electroacupuncture, and then injected the blood from those rats into other control rats who had never received acupuncture.
As a result, both groups of rats were less sensitive to pain than before.
Obviously, this is because endogenous analgesics were also injected into the control mice along with blood.
Acupuncture vs Pain: For many years, after a lot of experiments, people have known that acupuncture can control pain in many cases.
By stimulating nerve endings at the site of acupuncture, the secretion of a large number of substances that can affect pain can be promoted.
Enkephalin and dynorphin are two kinds of natural opiates produced in the human body. They can inhibit the electrical activity of spinal cord nerve cells.
This is how doctors explain the direct analgesic effect of acupuncture—the immediate analgesic effect.
As long as the needle is still on the skin, the stimulation from the acupuncture will draw people away from the pain.
Other experts, such as Marcus Baecker, a physician at the Department of Internal Medicine and the Department of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, believe that there is another principle that helps patients to grow after acupuncture treatment.Reduce pain over time.
A part of the spinal cord called the posterior horn has inhibitory synapses on top of it, which can continue to weaken the conductivity of nerve fibers.
The ability of nerve fibers to transmit signals to the brain is weakened, so that the pain cannot reach the brain, and people will not feel pain.
But research shows that the impact of acupuncture is deep in the brain.
Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Harvard Medical School published their studies in 2000 and 2002 with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), respectively.
This technology can detect human nerve activity, and based on the results, researchers can determine whether a needle stuck in the hand can change the function of the brain.
They found that activity in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and other limbic system components was weakened, and these are the parts known to be associated with pain.
When the researchers stimulated specific points, they also recorded changes in the activity of the brain’s somatosensory cortex, which is involved in the processing of pain information.
The secretion of hormones, neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and endorphins triggered by acupuncture can explain some other effects of this therapy, including changes in blood flow and immune cell function.
Acupuncture can stimulate the release of multiple factors and cause changes in brain function, which gives people reason to believe that it can affect many different systems of the human body.
Some clinical evidence also supports this view.
In 1997, a report published by the National Institutes of Health claimed that there was “clear evidence” that acupuncture was effective against a range of diseases, including nausea after surgery and chemotherapy, and morning sickness during pregnancy.The report also states that there is “reasonable evidence” that acupuncture can relieve pain from surgery and women’s dysmenorrhea.
Moreover, the discomfort caused by acupuncture is less repetitive than with conventional therapies.
Maybe this biological evidence will make people feel that the question about the effectiveness of acupuncture has been completely solved.
However, some patients have improved after receiving acupuncture treatment, but it is not certain that this is the role of acupuncture itself.
Dominik Irnich of the University of Munich, Germany, said that part of the secret of acupuncture lies in the psychological effects it causes.
Patients and doctors no longer need to communicate across the table, doctors will touch with their hands and carefully observe the patient’s condition.
Otherwise, they will continue to cause illness and symptoms.
Often, this alone breaks the positive impact on the treatment process.