Updated: Sep 28, 2020
The Concept of Ling-Luo, or Chinese meridians, channels, was critically, but positively investigated by the Chinese scientists and doctors before they formed their final conclusions on it. The majority of this research, investigation in the light of newer methods developed by the science was done after the revolution and establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Prior to the revolution traditional Chinese medicine system along with the concept of acupressure points - also known as pressure points - was not encouraged by the state, in fact the government was trying to suppress it by instilling certain legal blockages in the system for its practitioners. After the revolution the new rulers made looking after the health of the entire nation, which had suffered due to years of hardships and famine, a priority. They had very early realized the fact that a self dependent nation, as they had visualized it, cannot be built by weak and frazzled population.
The words of Mao Tsi Tung " if you make yourself dependent on anything or anyone then you are going to be exploited", had become the motto of the country. The diseases were wide spread, where as their was a sever dearth of Western doctors and medicines. The communist system as adopted from USSR which saw modern science as an ally to the development of the newly liberated country couldn't immediately afford training Western style medical staff due to lack of time, finances, and resources.
Thus, they reverted to the time tested, with a history of over thousand years, technique of traditional Chinese medicine for fighting out the country's then present health crisis. The only hurdle was that the language of this traditional medicine system was out of comprehension for the newly developing modern science based Western system. It was a more of a " mumbo jumbo" of some superstition, black magic to the emerging modern empirical reasoning, on which the Western medicine system is based.
This had to be so, the language of the traditional Chinese medicine system had developed thousands of years ago, where as modern scientific language was just a few decades old. Faith in something that is beyond the perception of our senses, and the intellect, or that which couldn't be verified in a laboratory was openly opposed. What held it in popularity was that the traditional system, in spite of being incomprehensible to the modern mind, had consistently, and skillfully delivered results over the past thousands of years.
There were also certain advantages of accepting the traditional Chinese medicine system at that point in Chinese history: there as already an army of traditional doctors stationed in the interiors and smaller towns which cuts down the cost and time involved in training new personnel in the area; Secondly the time for training the new practitioners of the traditional system was much shorter ( 3 - 4 years) than required for Western system; Thirdly, since now dedicated infrastructure like labs were required for training on the traditional system, it also cut down the cost of investing in the same; Lastly it was seen as politically more expedient to adapt the system which was so popular, i spite of the suppression policies of the previous regime, with the masses.
Thus, the Chines accepted the proven techniques of the traditional medicine system ( acupoints, needling) over the more, subtle,nebulous, and difficult to prove its western counterpart. Later it was lased with the scientific language of the modern world to the extent that the W.H.O. ( World Health Organisation) recognized it as a Medical science is is promoting it in developing countries.
Acupressure Points and Spirituality
In an attempt to impart a scientific basis to the theory of acupuncture and channels the Chinese government began coming up with more acceptable and cogent theories behind its development. It became imperative upon the state to have the traditional medicine system accepted by the populace sans the mystery of it classical origin. The antiquity of the Chinese traditional medicine system was set further back to more than 5000 years.
Stories of soldiers getting cured of diseases, of which many of them suffered fro years, as certain points on their bodies were hit by the arrows in the yore were circulated. People began studying the phenomena further by deliberately inflicting injuries at the same points on other people suffering from similar afflictions. With further systematic studies more such points were discovered, Cauterizing these points with stone lead to determination of exact position and function ( usefulness of those points).
The points were named and based on their similar properties they were connected into lines or channels. This lead to the formation of the main Channel theory. The reality of the channels, meridians was not accepted here but a possible scientific basis was presented. Since their usefulness in diagnosis and treatment was already known, accepting the quasi scientific theory of the developments related to the concept was made easy. Later the discovery of certain classics son medicine clearly refuted this belief.
The most respected and oldest of the Chinese classics on medicine is Nei Ching ( 200 BC) known as " The yellow Emperor's classic of internal medicine. In Nei Ching both the theory of channels and the acupressure points along with the internal organs, Chi, and body fluid are mentioned. It divides the channels into two parts, Jing ( channels) and lu ( Collaterals). The twelve main channels are said to be connected to the organs ( Zang-fu) as well as with the skin, tendons, muscles, and joints in an attempt to hold the body organically as a whole.
Further it mentones that the channels have the ability to promote the functions of Chi ( prana), and the blood ( Xue),reacting to diseases ,and resisting the influence of variou s pathogenic agents. It also describes the relationship between the channels and the brain. But, it remains mum on the question of the origin of the channels and the pressure points. Thus the newly proposed theory of the accidental discovery of the acupressure points and their subsequent connecting into a line, or channel could not be supported by the classics.
Nei Ching though mentions some sages , which the believers of the traditional system believe to be the Taoist Yogis, in connection with some supposedly superior knowledge of the universe. The book no where mentions that the knowledge of the traditional medicine was given by these sages to the society. The sages are believed to have been in possession of some superior spiritual wisdom which cannot be explained by the scientific methods of collecting empirical observations over a long period of time.
These sages were believed to have surpassed the limits of life and death and have entered into a different realm of existence, and their intuitive perception was the mere source of the knowledge of the channels and the acupressure points. There is a statement in Nei Ching itself which says, "upon the communication of articulation there are 365 meetings ( pressure points ) in the body. There so called articulation is a place where the spirit ( Shen or consciousness) and energy ( Chi-hsueh) travel to get in and out of the body.
These acupressure points as mentioned do not mean the skin, muscle, tendon, or the bone. These pressure points are only mentioned in terms of consciousness and energy, this shows that the sages must not have derived this knowledge through ordinary methods of sense perception and logical reasoning only. Thus the believers of the traditional Chinese medicine system have a strong faith on the ancient sages backed by their experience of the empirical validity of their classic theories and their practical value.
This classic system of medicine is so popular only because it works every time, and not because the present humans have been able to decode the logic behind its workings, its practice is just based on faith.
Pressure Points - How they work?
To the traditional Chinese yogi or physician the existence of Channels is as real as is the existence of blood and muscle to the Western Physician. The Chinese physician also thinks that in order for blood to flow, move their has to be some energy involved, movement and energy are inseparably mixed with one another. Movement is the manifestation of the kinetic energy. The traditional Chinese medicine system believes that its the Chi ( prana) energy that flows with the blood, and as all matter can be controlled this vital energy (Chi) can also be controlled or regulated.
Since blood has its dedicated blood vessels to flow through within the body, though the concept of blood is in Chinese medicine is very subtle flow which includes energy ( chi-hsuel) or consciousness and body fluids, the energy ( Chi, prana) also has its own dedicated pathways which facilitates it flow within the body. Along with Chi flows the subtle aspect of nourishment or a form of subtle blood, which is different from red blood of the Western medicine system.
The Chinese doctor uses acupressure, or acupuncture needles in order to control, regulate its flow for healing purpose. Even though the Chinese know that the same Chi (prana, vital energy) also flows as an adjunct in the blood vessels as well as in the electrical impulses along the pathways of the nervous system, still they do not needle these channels for controlling the intensity, flow of the vital energy, instead they needle special pressure points which have the capacity to effect the Chi ( Vital energy of the entire body or its part.
It is believed, in the Chinese tradition, that these acupoints are connected through channels, meridians through which the energy flows and only by stimulating these points can the functioning of the Chi can be effected with certainty and precision. Though the Western science is still grappling with the issue of proving the empirical existence of the energy channels they still accept the ability of the channels to create desired changes in the functioning of the body.
Countries like U.S.S.R. , France, and U.S.A. have already verified their presence by monitoring the change in the skin resistance, and electrical voltage potential of the stimulated acupressure points, the positioning of these points as verified with various experiments conducted by the Western scholars perfectly corresponds with the pathways of energy as described in the ancient Chinese literature.
Once the presence of the acupoints was proved, the existence of the channels was still a mystery, as these modern scientists still believed that the channels are not real but imaginary lines drawn across acupoints which exhibit common properties in order to facilitate memorizing their positions. They still remained oblivious to the simple fact that then why were all the points, with common factors, linked to the same organ only.
Thus the Western scientists believed that the points were discovered individually thousands of years ago ( as early as late stone age - as stone needles used for treatment has been discovered which date back to some 10000 years) and then grouped into channels for aiding in a systematic approach to the process of diagnosis, or treatment related to them. These people remained absorbed in conducting scientific research on the exact functioning of the pressure points based on neurology, biochemistry and physiology.
Theory of Pain and the Acupuncture points
Ronald Melzack, and Patrick Wall, the two Western scientists presented their theory of pain in the late sixties which explains the action of acupuncture for relieving pain, also known as acupuncture anaesthesis. Their explaination is based on the " Gateway control theory of pain". Normally, the sensations from the affected body part reach the pain centre, thalamus, located in the brain after being relayed to the transmission cells of the spinal cord. In fact, the sensory information from the organ first reaches the peripheral nerve fibers surrounding the spinal column from where they get transported to the spinal cords transmission cells.
A spinal gating mechanism is located on the dorsal horns of the vertebral column (which houses the spinal cord) which regulates the amount of sensory information which can pass on from the peripheral nerve fibers to the transmission cells of the spinal cord and finally reach the pan centers in the brain to be expressed as actual pain. The more the amount of information that this gating allows to pass through it the more intense will be the perception of pain.
The transmission of more sensory pain information to the brain happens when the small diametre ( i.e A -Delta) fibre activity exceeds the amount of large diametre ( i.e. A-Beta) fibre activity of the peripheral nerve fibres. As per Ronald and Patrick the Au[puncture needles strongly stimulate the acitivty of the large fibre ( A - Beta) which then excites the acitivity of the small diametre ( A- Delta) fibre. The blocks the transmission of pain signals to the spinal cord, and subsequently to the brain which creates relief from pain.
This convincingly explains the working of the acupressure points from the angle of neurology. Experiments based on biochemistry were also conducted all over the world for explaing the phenomenon of acupunture analgesis. The circulatory systems of two rats were connected and the related acupoint of only one rat was needled, this equally raised the pain threshold of both the rats. The only explanation for this at that time was that some neurochemical was produced in the needled rat which reached the other rat via the connected circulatory system.
It was also found that the analgesic ( pain relieving) affect of the needling was nullified if morphine antagoniseds were injected into the needled rat. The substances that were released in in the blood of the needled rat were chemically identified as peptids and were subsequently called endorphines. Later on it was discovered that endorphines are naturally produced in the body in the pituitary gland, and some endorphines as 5000 to 10 000 times more potent than morphine.
Brace Pomeranz, a scientist from Canada got similar results from his experiments on responses of animals to painful stimuli after application of acupunture analgesia ( reduction of pain through puncturing the point with needle). he found that after some 20 minutes of stimulation of the point by the needle the pain response from the spinal cord to the brain was reduced. This affect can be neutralized by injecting
Naloxone, a well known morphine antagonist, implying the presence of endorphines as was the case with gates theory.
So it was successfully established that two body systems, nervous , and the biochemical ( endochrine system) worked in parallel or syn chronically, after receiving the stimulus from the acupressure point to cause the pain blocking effect. Since the presence of two types of body systems was already established remaining open minded to the possibility of the third one made sense. This third system could be the presence of the Chinese meridians through which the vital energy flows to all the internal organs for regulating their functions. Kundilini yoga also talks about the presence of Pranic channels called Nadis.
The channel system was the one over which the effect of the needle stimulus at the acupressure point was transferred to the endocrine and nervous systems.
Conclusion: The ancient Chinese have never denied the existence of multiple systems in the body, but they considered the system of channels, meridians and collaterals, over which the life energy travels, as the most powerful and the subtlest as it controls and regulates the functioning of all the other systems. The flow of energy in these channels can be controlled ( for treatment of a specific organ related disease) by stimulating the acupressure points situated over them.
Though the existence of the pressure points and the energy channels is yet to be concretely established, still working with their knowledge as stated in the ancient texts delivers sure shot results all the times. Even the Western medical knowledge isn't absolute in itself, new scientific discoveries are completely refuting the views held earlier related to the structure and functioning of the human body.
Though we can't scientifically explain the existence and functioning of the acupressure points, they still deliver real results pointing to their existence which is yet far from the limited perception ability of human senses.