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Acupuncture & Fascia - Core Essentials

In this post, I will cover some of the fundamental principles for why acupuncturists need to learn to think of meridians and point functions in terms of myofascial dynamics. Below is a list of the top three reasons why it is imperative to learn these principles.


  1. Myofascial lines give us an anatomical and mechanical way to comprehend how points work.

  2. The fascial perspective allows us to expand our theory of qi and to understand how myofascial lines are the avenues for the movement of mechanical energy.

  3. Myofascial anatomy streamlines how we can do point selections and improves clinical results.


Let’s take a look at these three topics in greater detail.


Anatomy is the physical foundation of the body and provides the avenues, streams, and lines for vital energy to move. By conceiving of meridians in terms of how muscles connect through the fascia, we can take a lot of the mystery out of why points work the way they do. For instance, many of the acupuncture points on the leg yin lines are beneficial for the digestive and reproductive systems. For instance, LV 3, SP 3, SP 4, SP 6, SP 9, and KI 7 are frequently indicated for both digestive and gynecological disorders. While we have traditional theories to explain this, understanding neurological and myofascial mechanisms helps us to refine our point selections and optimize our clinical outcomes.


The DFL and Psoas Muscle

The leg yin points listed above, and other leg yin points, all influence what is known as the Deep Front Line (DFL) in myofascial anatomy. The DFL includes deep muscles in the feet, legs, pelvis, and torso such as the muscles between the metatarsals, tibialis posterior, adductor magnus, psoas, and diaphragm. Additionally, the deep pelvic fascia and visceral fascia that surround the internal organs and digestive system are also part of the DFL. Therefore, when we needle points on the DFL and leg yin meridians, we can affect the mechanical energy in the deep structures of the torso. Notice that many leg yin acupuncture points also affect the heart and lungs. While some of the influence of the leg yin points work via the nervous system and its electrical energy, the deep myofascial structures are also affected and work via mechanical energy mechanisms. This can be clearly defined via fascial connections between muscles.


3 Forms of Qi Energy - A Modern Rendition


A modern interpretation of qi energy can be conceived of including three forms of energy recognized by modern science. These three forms of energy include:


  1. Electrical energy which is found in the nervous system and is involved in relaying nerve transmission signals.

  2. Mechanical energy is involved in the movement of the muscles and myofascial system.

  3. Chemical energy is the basis for all physiological and metabolic functions.


Mechanical energy is defined as energy in movement.


Movement and manual therapies have played a long and extensive role in the development of TCM and traditional Asian medicine. We see movement and manual therapies in qi kung, tai chi, tuina, shiatsu, Thai massage, and other forms of bodywork.


When meridians are conceived of as myofascial lines, and when this is fully comprehended, we have a firm basis for using both movement and manual therapies in conjunction with acupuncture.


This can be applied to correcting postural conditions and misalignments in the musculoskeletal system as well as for internal conditions.


When prescribing movement therapies, it is also essential to understand myofascial dynamics as the muscles and fascia are the basis for movement in the body.


The movement of muscles and fascia is mechanical energy.


Improving Point Selections and Clinical Outcomes


For any given disorder there are dozens of points we can select from. Using traditional theories can give us zang-fu or meridian-based perspectives on how to proceed. However, using the myofascial lines as a basis for point selections gives us an anatomical foundation. This can not only help to guide point selections but also give us information about the depth and angle of needle insertions. Additionally, a myofascial model for acupuncture provides insights into the level of the disease location and how different points will affect the various levels of the body.


For instance, some points for upper back pain specifically affect the trapezius which is a superficial level muscle. Other points affect deeper muscles like the rhomboids, levator scapulae, or paraspinals. If you are treating upper back pain and the imbalance is in the rhomboids, points that affect the trapezius may not produce much of a result. However, if you use points that affect the deeper rhomboids, better results can be obtained.


Myofascial anatomy gives acupuncturists an anatomical foundation for selecting points that are most likely to produce the best results.


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