Question: I see that you write a lot about science, and it sounds like you think that acupuncture is based on nerves and muscles. My acupuncturist always talks about Chi and says that no one really knows how acupuncture works. I’m confused.
Dear Confused: The idea that acupuncture works through mysterious energies, or Chi (“QI”), is based on misinformation generated by a French bank clerk working in China in the early 20th century. This individual, Georges Soulie de Morant, had no medical training and was determined to show that acupuncture worked through metaphysical means.
In order to learn more about the history of this misinformation, I encourage you to read this paper by Donald E. Kendall, called “Energy-meridian misconceptions of Chinese medicine”.
Prior to Soulie de Morant deciding to translate the Chinese word, Chi, into “energy”, acupuncture was seen as a means of moving blood, dissolved gases, and metabolized nutrients throughout the body. Acupuncture science offers so much more than the overly simplistic notion of pushing mystical energies around the body. Knowing the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and connective tissue influences of acupuncture propels us to study in a much more sophisticated fashion the nuances of neuromodulation and myofascial dysfunction, insofar as their interrelationship with health and disease.
Please feel free to write again if you’d like more information. You can also read some of the introductory chapters to my book, Interactive Medical Acupuncture Anatomy, if you’d like to study my philosophy of healing with acupuncture from a more in-depth and evidence-supported standpoint.
Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, FAAMA