Bio-Physical mechanisms for the action of Acupuncture to explain the mode of action of HealthPoint

An information and control system using direct current (DC) analogue electrical signals which runs in connection with the nervous system has been postulated to explain how acupuncture might work, by Robert Becker. Becker is a retired Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery working in New York State. His hypothesis is based on work with limb regeneration in amphibians and on the phenomena of the current of injury.

Becker's hypothesis leads to a whole range of theoretical assumptions as to the phenomena of acupuncture points which have led to the useful practical outcome of the HealthPoint, using its particular wave form and particular method of point detection. Becker proposed that the signals in the DC system are carried via the neuroglia which are cells surrounding nerve fibres. Currents known to be produced by injury are said to be produced by this glial system, which is associated with growth and repair.

For example, if an injury is created and there is no current of injury, then no growth or repair occurs. Also electrical currents and associated fields have been shown to be fundamental to differentiation and development in both plants and animals. Becker described a number of spectacular examples or repairabilities, including the regeneration of amputated limbs in newts, and finger-tips in children.

The integration of the glial system with acupuncture was proposed by Becker with acupuncture points considered to be analogous to booster stations along the meridians, which are lines connecting acupuncture points, and these meridian lines are likened to transmission lines for these DC signals. Acupuncture points in meridians do show specific electrical properties, and changes in these characteristics can be used for diagnosis.

Acupuncture points appear to have little or no electrical activity when the tissue or organ which they represent is healthy. When an injury takes place, or disease occurs, a current is produced local to that damage. At the same time the properties of the related acupuncture point change, and there are also some possible changes in polarity of the acupuncture points in relationship to the surrounding skin. Corresponding acupuncture points are usually distant to the site of the injury. This is not always the case but is often so.

A number of conventional electrical circuits can be fitted to this model, and the diode gate is the best explanation. A diode gate is one of the basic building blocks in micro-processors. It seems that in painful conditions a semi-conductor effect blocks the free flow electric charge, thereby leading to a build up of charge, and therefore pain.

The concept of semi conduction is very important to this explanation of mechanism of the acupuncture point. One of the pioneers of modern concepts relating solid state physics, ie, physics not involving moving parts or gasses, sometimes called semi-conduction and biology, was Albert Szent Gorgyi. He won a Nobel prize for work on Vitamin C and biological oxidation. He first introduced the concept of semi-conduction into the biological arena during the 1940s'. Before semi-conduction was suggested, only two methods of conduction of electrical current were known:

  • Metallic conduction which can be viewed as clouds of electrons moving along a wire.

  • Ionic conduction which is the conduction of electricity using charged particles (ions). Nerve impulses are conducted in such a manner. Ionic currents work well over short distances, such as the membrane serving nerve fibres, but soon become dissipated over greater distances.

  • Semi-Conduction is a third means of generating and conducting a current and requires materials to have a very orderly structure so that electrons can move from one atom nucleus to another. Crystals have the necessary orderly structure. Much body tissue is in the liquid crystal state.

Semi-conductors have characteristics of both insulators and conductors, depending on temperature; they are inefficient in that they can carry only small currents but the current can be readily carried over long distances. Semi-conduction has been an essential cornerstone in the development of all aspects of electronics over the last 40 years.

The idea of a diode, which is a semi-conductor which allows the passage of current in one direction only, is central to the basic explanation of how acupuncture works. This is shown by the three following diagrams:

The current source is the body's own metabolism.

The load is the part of the body which is connected to a specific acupuncture point which is shown on the right of each diagram.

If the load or the specific tissue under question is healthy then the acupuncture point registers no abnormality. If the load is injured in some way, such as in the second diagram, then a current of injury is produced and this blocks the flow of current into the affected area. As a result the current flow from the body's metabolism (current source) backs up and the acupuncture point becomes electrically active.

Diagram 1 - No Injury
Diagram 2 - Injury Present

The third diagram shows the acupuncture point being treated with a biphasic signal.

This is of great importance as a signal with either positive or negative polarity, and not with negative and positive polarity, which is what we mean by a biphasic signal, is the most likely input to unblock the diode and send a current into the affected area which then helps that area to heal.

Diagram 3 - treatment current


One other characteristic of the biphase impulse given by the HealthPoint is the very sharp rise and fall tides. This gives a very resonant wave form with a very rich fourier transform. This is basically a frequency content of the wave form. A particular wave form used is very rich in harmonics, and therefore is a very resonant wave form. Resonance is a very important phenomena in biology, therefore the Healthpoint makes use of this, so the point is able to resonate with one or a number of the many frequencies contained within the Healthpoint wave form. This explanation suggests that acupuncture points become particularly active after injury or disease, which is exactly what is found in practice.

Acupuncture points are usually negative with respect to the surrounding skin, with a value of -0.05 millivolts as being fairly average. Higher negative values represent increased electrical activity in the corresponding anatomical area with readings of -0.25 millivolts. This is found in functional pathology where there is no actual organic change or damage. In acute conditions, this level can go up to as high as -0.75 millivolts. In extreme cases readings over-100 millivolts is usually associated with severe pain. In other situations a high positive value is found, particularly with infections, psoriasis, asthma and allergies, and readings of +0.5 millivolts are not unusual. A low permanent positive value such as 0.001 millivolts is present in some chronic conditions such as in chronic Osteo-arthritis.

What this means is that it is possible to detect acupuncture points looking at voltage change. However, the most common method used to find acupuncture points is looking for areas of high conductance or low resistance (these both mean the same thing). This is what is used in the Healthpoint, and the sensitive skin resistance meter is built in to the Healthpoint with the operator connected to the Healthpoint (part of the hand grip on the Healthpoint is electro-conductive and therefore forms one side of the circuit). Many studies have shown acupuncture points to be areas of low resistance.

The fact that semi-conductor properties are present in acupuncture points can be shown by taking the reading over an acupuncture point with a simple voltmeter. If the electrodes are reversed, and if ionic conduction was solely responsible, then the reading would remain the same but would have a different polarity, ie, from negative to positive. In practice this rarely happens and the second measurement with the electrodes the other way round is often different in varying degrees to the first orientation of the electrodes. This indicates a partial, or in some cases total, semi-conductor effect.

What we do know from traditional Chinese acupuncture theory is that meridians do have a direction of flow going from the first numbered point on the meridian to the last numbered point on the meridian such as in the bladder meridian ( the largest meridian in the body). This starts at bladder one and ends at bladder 67. The flow is from one through all the intervening points to bladder 67. Therefore reverse measurements as described here provide evidence for a greater flow of current in one direction than the other, therefore substantiating the ancient Chinese view of the point numbering.

What is found is that if a bi-polar electrical current is driven through a semi conductive tissue then normal conductive properties will be restored, the stored charge in the damaged area will be discharged and the resultant symptoms will disappear, often with sufficient treatment this can result in a complete disappearance of the problem. This phenomena is illustrated in the diagrams. To summarise, therefore:

  • Acupuncture points only become electrically active when a dysfunction is present in the body.

  • The size and shapes of acupuncture points appear to vary considerably. Electrical measurements reveal them in some cases to be zones within which a number of highly localised points may exist, and in other situations they appear to be highly localised points even localised within a small number of millimetres

  • Different acupuncture points in the zone appear to become active in different situations. The points are dynamic, becoming particularly active after injury or disease.

  • We do know that stimulation of a specific acupuncture point results in functional alterations in the organ or part of the organ, or soft tissue, or whatever structure is connected with the acupuncture point. This functional alteration is always in the direction of normality and can, in some cases, lead to the resolution of actual organic pathology.

In conclusion, this simple biophysical model of acupuncture can be confirmed by any reasonably committed investigator, using a simple multi-meter. This confirms the semi-conductor properties of acupuncture points and their related tissue. It also provides a scientific basis for the use of a biphasic current of stimulation, and the use of a highly resonant wave form so that each point has a selection of frequencies (harmonics) from which to choose.

This model also explains why, through repeated treatment, functional, and in many cases organic, pathology can respond and resolve. Essentially what an acupuncture point is expressing when it becomes active (in other words where disease, functional or organic, is present), is it is trying to resolve biophysically the electrical abnormality produced by the injury or disease in the affected tissue.

The use of a biphasic current over the affected point facilities this process, which in turn leads to resolution of the original pathology.

This theory, therefore, has the beauty of having considerable scientific evidence, and of it being able to be confirmed by simple experiments which can be carried out by anybody of reasonable intelligence using a multimeter.

This, therefore, in turn leads to a sensible design for pieces of equipment such as the HealthPoint.

Dr Julian Jessel Kenyon MD Southampton, UK. February, 1995

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