Evidence of Connective Tissue Involvement in Acupuncture, 2002

Topics: biomechanics, subcutaneous tissue, mechanical stress, ultrasound, histology

Authors: Helene M. Langevin, David L. Churchill, Junru Wu, Gary J. Badger, Jason A. Yandow, James R. Fox and Martin H. Krag

Abstract

Acupuncture needle manipulation gives rise to “needle grasp,” a biomechanical phenomenon characterized by an increase in the force necessary to pull the needle out of the tissue (pullout force). This study investigates the hypothesis that winding of connective tissue, rather than muscle contraction, is the mechanism responsible for needle grasp. We performed 1) measurements of pullout force in humans with and without needle penetration of muscle; 2) measurements of pullout force in anesthetized rats, with and without needle rotation, followed by measurements of connective tissue volume surrounding the needle; 3) imaging of rat abdominal wall explants, with and without needle rotation, using ultrasound scanning acoustic microscopy. We found 1) no evidence that increased penetration of muscle results in greater pullout force than increased penetration of subcutaneous tissue; 2) that both pullout force and subcutaneous tissue volume were increased by needle rotation; 3) that increased periodic architectural order was present in subcutaneous tissue with rotation, compared with no rotation. These data support connective tissue winding as the mechanism responsible for the increase in pullout force induced by needle rotation. Winding may allow needle movements to deliver a mechanical signal into the tissue and may be key to acupuncture’s therapeutic mechanism.

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