This explanation is one of my favourites because I’m a big fan of the meeting of Eastern and Western thought. Dr. Daniel Keown, an allopathic medical doctor and licensed Acupuncturist, discovered great similarities between the two medical philosophies and wrote a book about it: “The Spark in the Machine – How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine”
In his book, he compares the fascial pathways to the Acupuncture channels. Fascia is a type of connective tissue spanning the entire body, wrapping each organ and compartment, keeping things tightly held together and separate from neighbouring anatomical systems. Think Shrink Wrap.
Fascial tissue is made up primarily of collagen which makes it strong as steel and is both electrically conductive and resistant. Fascia is also piezoelectric, which means it can generate its own electricity. In this way, fascia generates electrical impulses on movement; when it is bent or compressed.
These fascial pathways allow for easy flow of fluids and electricity along its outer surfaces. We can start to see where he’s going with this. But there’s more. The author takes us all the way back to our humble beginnings of the meeting of sperm and egg. The Acupuncture system is essentially the ancient Chinese explanation for embryology before the fancy machines we now have to look closely at how the cell becomes the impossibly complex and beautifully functioning human body as we know it. He explains how we now know that minute electrical impulses initiate each stage of cell division and embryonic growth. What Western embryology still can’t explain is how it’s organized that each primordial cell goes out and becomes the exact type of functioning cell that’s needed in any particular area of the body. Herein lies the difference between simple electricity, and Qi. The author playfully but pointedly invents the word “elecQicity” to describe this ‘electricity with organizational intelligence’.
The acupuncture points are nodes or centers of organization where elecQicity collects or pools. Often these centers are at the crooks of body segments, in areas of significant embryological change. Stimulation of these points sends information as electrical impulses down the fascial pathways, starting a cascade of microscopic events throughout the body. Each point has its own specific function and affects particular tissues according to TCM theory, matching what we now know about the trajectory of these fascial pathways.
Why does an acupoint on the forearm affect the digestive system? How can stimulation of a point near the outer heel bone, known in TCM to affect problems with sight, light up the visual center of the brain of a human subject during an MRI? This book postulates that fascial pathways allow for this communication between such distal areas of the body.
This is so far the best explanation I’ve run into so far comparing TCM and Western physiology.
We’re getting close to touching on the quantum explanation. In fact, Dr. Keown waxes quantum philosophical on occasion in his book. But we’ll save that for our last piece in this blog series, next…