This is a piece of recent research on acupressure for neck and shoulder pain. The interesting point about this research is that it specifically examines the use of “distal” points in the treatment of the condition. It is often somewhat difficult to explain, especially to new patients, why it is that several of the points used in an acupuncture treatment will be anatomically quite far away from the site of the original complaint. For example, a patient complaining of a shoulder problem may be treated using a point below the knee. Such a choice is quite counter-intuitive. The only explanation one can give is from the point of view of the traditional theory of acupuncture meridians, but it would be nice to have an alternative explanation- a scientific one- for those patients who are not completely comfortable with the traditional “hippy” theory. This piece of research does not provide an explanation of the mechanism by which this works, but it does provide evidence of what happens to the nervous and circulatory systems, when this technique is used.
41 patients were divided into three groups; one group received three acupuncture points on the leg, the second group received three acupuncture points on the arm, and the third group was the “control” group and they did not receive any treatment at all. Blood flow and oxygenation were measured in the trapezius muscle (neck and shoulder area) . It was found that one group of three points increased oxygenation and blood flow in the trapezius (neck and shoulder) muscle- can you guess which group it was? Bearing in mind that the treatment was given for neck and shoulder pain, one would expect that the acupuncture points on the arm would have increased the blood flow and oxygenation to the neck and shoulder muscles more than the acupuncture points on the leg did- but the reverse was true ! So here is a piece of scientific evidence in support of one of the paradoxes of traditional acupuncture theory.