Physiological Effects of Superficial Acupuncture:
The Technique Focusing on Patient’s Respiratory Rhythm:
Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D., Kazushi Nishijo, Ph.D.
(Paper presented at the Society for Acupuncture Research, Symposium 2000, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, October 21-22, 2000)
As a result of the growing number of research activities in the field of acupuncture over the past decade, an understanding of acupuncture and its’ mechanism has been substantially advanced. However, the acupuncture technique used in most previous studies was deep needle insertion with strong manual or electrical stimulation. Very little study has been conducted using a gentle, superficial acupuncture technique.
The series of our experiments indicated that superficial acupuncture stimulation (stimulating skin and subcutaneous tissue only) causes a significant autonomic reaction, which in turn induces various physiological reactions. However, the degree of autonomic response significantly varies depending on the subject’s “biological state” (e.g., respiratory status) during acupuncture needling. The result indicated that acupuncture stimulation must be in synchronization with the patient’s exhalation phase of respiration in order to elicit a consistent parasympathetic excitation response.
Our controlled study using the superficial acupuncture technique on chronic-tension-type-headache patients indicated that integrated electromyographic activity and the subject’s self-reported pain significantly decreased following the application of superficial needling on the TE5 point. However, significant response only occurred when the point was stimulated during the patient’s exhalation.
The study suggested that acupuncture’s positive effect does not depend on the selection of acupuncture points and depth alone but also of significant importance is the knowledge of a patient’s physiological state during needling.
The presentation also covers a clinical study on neck pain patients, and discusses the immediate and prolonged effect of superficial and deep acupuncture needling techniques.