Studies Shows Certain Acupuncture Points Have Modulating Effects


This post is more for acupuncturists, but I’ll try to explain in lay person terms… There are a team of researches in Beijing China that are exploring certain acupuncture points and its connection to the nervous system. Some points are modulating (homotropic) to the nervous system where they can have a modulating effect because of the nervous system fiber connection. Other points are directional (hetertropic) meaning they would have a one way effect again based on their connection to the nervous system.
This idea of certain points being stimulatory (heterotropic), some being inhibiting (heterotropic) and some being both stimulating and inhibiting depending on state (homotropic) has long been part of acupuncture understanding. The researchers here are trying to prove the theories and connect it to modern physiology.

The most recent study was in rats with a half full bladder and during different states of bladder. There is an active state where this is a lot of activity (that is the one where you have to pee) or a static state where with the same amount of urine in the bladder you do not have to urinate. If it was in an overactive state then acupuncture would subdue the bladder. If in a static state it would stimulate the bladder. That is pretty cool that the same points can have a different effect depending on current physiological state.

This past year the same team looked at diabetic gastroparesis and found similar results that certain points have a stimulating effect on the GI system. I find that acupuncture is a great treatment option for gastroperesis as it seems to be a diagnosis that is often given these days of super stressed lifestyles. The caution for acupuncturists is that if there is too much of a stimulating effect then using these stimulatory heterotrophic points can worsen conditions. (such as if someone has diarrhea).



Background: In Chinese medicine, dual effects on target organs are considered a primary characteristic of acupoint. Acupoints may be classified as heterotopic or homotopic in terms of spinal segmental innervation: homotopic acupoints contain afferent innervation in the same segment from which efferent fibers innervate target visceral organs, and heterotopic acupoints utilize different spinal segments to innervate target visceral organs than the segment receiving the afferent signal. It is well-known that dual effects of acupuncture on the bladder can be generated based on different states of the bladder, however, the dual effects of single acupoint stimulation and acupoint site-specificity (homotopic acupoints and heterotopic acupoints) on the bladder have yet to be investigated.

Methods: Twenty Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized and the intravesical pressure was measured via a manometric balloon inserted into the bladder. The acupuncture needle was separately inserted to a depth of 4 mm at the acupoints RN1 (Huiyin), RN3 (Zhongji), BL28 (Pangguangshu), BL32 (Ciliao), RN2 (Qugu) or BL23 (Shenshu), and manually rotated right then left with a frequency of 2 Hz for 1 min. Following acupuncture stimulation, bladder pressure was recorded and compared against the pre-stimulation measurements.

Results: During the bladder’s active state, manual acupuncture (MA) at RN1, RN3, BL28, BL32 or RN2 inhibited bladder motility (P < 0.01). In the static bladder, MA at RN1, RN3, BL28, BL32, RN2 or BL23 increased bladder motility (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: MA at homotopic acupoints may produce dual effects on bladder motility: inhibiting bladder motility when in an active state and enhancing bladder motility when in a static state.




Qin Q1,2, Mo Q3, Liu K4, He X5, Gao X6, Zhu B7. Acupuncture at homotopic acupoints exerts dual effects on bladder motility in anesthetized rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Aug 8;15:267. PMID: 26253168. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]


Qin QG1, Gao XY1, Liu K1, Yu XC1, Li L1, Wang HP1, Zhu B1. Acupuncture at heterotopic acupoints enhances jejunal motility in constipated and diarrheic rats. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Dec 28;20(48):18271-83. PMID: 25561794. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]


Wang SJ1, Yang HY, Wang F, Li ST. Acupoint Specificity on Colorectal Hypersensitivity Alleviated by Acupuncture and the Correlation with the Brain-Gut Axis. Neurochem Res. 2015 Jun;40(6):1274-82. PMID: 25968478. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]


Rong P1, Zhu B, Li Y, Gao X, Ben H, Li Y, Li L, He W, Liu R, Yu L. Mechanism of acupuncture regulating visceral sensation and mobility. Front Med. 2011 Jun;5(2):151-6. PMID: 21695619. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

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