BIOMEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT: AN INTEGRATIVE APPROACH.
“Pearls and Strings” in Classical Acupuncture or “How to Remove Acupuncture from the Bottle with a Narrow Neck”
Acupuncture has evolved for thousands of years and continues to grow vigorously. During its long history, ancient doctors formulated the “channel” (“meridian”, or Jingluo) theory to explain the clinical discovery of specific interrelations between different parts of the human body. Their “channel” theory became the foundation of classical acupuncture.
A scientific theory or hypothesis contains two components: empirical facts and an explanation of these facts. The empirical facts can be referred to metaphorically as valuable pearls, with the explanation of these facts taking the role of the string. The basic form of scientific advancement can be seen as a continuous process of changing the string while preserving the pearls, and the “channel” theory is no exception.
In “Channel” theory, however, the pearls and string are tightly tangled together and are difficult to differentiate. This perplexity leads to the situation that no one has been able to clarify what “channels” are, despite the fact that modern research on this question has been continuing for more than four decades. One study 1 shows that students who have modern medical backgrounds, Chinese and foreign alike, are not able to understand what the “channels” really mean.
To understand the value in the “Channel” theory, it is crucial to separate the valuable pearls from the string. Above all, the “Channel” theory has conveyed the precious message that there is specific interrelatedness between different parts of the body surface and between the body surface and viscera. The “Channels” themselves, reflecting the physiological knowledge of the ancient doctors who created them, serve only as a tentative explanation of this interrelatedness.
The “Channel” theory has successfully accomplished its historical mission of preserving and developing acupuncture; now it has become the narrow neck of the bottle which is impeding the further development of acupuncture medicine in the 21-st century.
Our research on the literature of classic acupuncture has identified the “pearls” that need to be connected with new biomedical “string”. The inevitable biomedicalization of classic acupuncture will result in an increase in scientific understanding of the interrelatedness of the human body. This process will work to eliminate the demarcation between Western and Oriental medicine, and a new integrative medicine will facilitate worldwide access to the great treasure of traditional Chinese medicine.
Professor Long-xiang Huang, OMD
Vice President of the Acupuncture Institute of the Academy of TCM
Vice Director WHO Collaborating Center for China Academy of TCM
Vice Director of the Channel Research Center of the State Administration of TCM
Chief Editor of Acupuncture Research and World Acupuncture
The author of Acupuncture Course for International Students and Historical Development of Acupuncture, (published in Beijing, Taipei and Seoul), and the author of revised versions of seven ancient classic acupuncture textbooks.
Find out more about Professor Huang’s discoveries.