Where Physical Therapy
Meets Strength and Conditioning

Click here to learn more

Anatomy Trains and Acupuncture Channels

Filed under: Anatomy,Continuing Education,physical therapy — Shon @ 12:21 pm June 22, 2012

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Neil Mathews, M.D., an excellent general practitioner who is an out of the box thinker with regard to traditional Western Medicine.  He has a burgeoning acupuncture practice and came to visit the clinic to talk shop as well as demonstrate a few acupuncture techniques.

Before we got started, I spent some time taking Neil through the clinic, including sharing with him my copy of Anatomy Trains, which he had never seen before (Anatomy Trains sits on a shelf in my exam room right next to Campbell's Operative Orthopedics, Kendall's Muscles Testing and Function, and Sahrmann's Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes).

As we were leafing through the text, I was pointing out and describing the Superficial Back Line (SBL) when Neil had an "A-Ha" moment.  He ran to his car and grabbed his copy of the Color Atlas of Acupuncture by Hecker et al. and pointed out that the SBL was almost identical to acupuncture's Bladder Channel.


 A rough outline of the superficial back line





 A diagram of The Bladder Channel


As we continued to go through both texts, there were other strong similarities between myofascial meridians/ lines and acupuncture channels.  These included:

1)  The Deep Front Arm Line and the Lung Channel

2)  The Deep Back Arm Line and the Small Intestine Channel

3) The Lateral Line and the Gall Bladder Channel (illustrated below):




The Lateral Line




The Gall Bladder Channel


So What?

I think correlations like those above make life worth living in the clinical world, especially in evolving disciplines.  Yes, acupuncture has been around a very long time, but with increasing acceptance into Western medicine, several questions remain regarding precise mechanism of action, as well as long term outcomes.  Anatomy Trains as a concept was developed as a game of sorts by Tom Myers as a teaching aid at the Rolf Institute less than 20 years ago, and fascial research is just coming out of it's infancy (this link from Tom's KMI website actually touches on the association between myofascial meridians and acupuncture channels).  Many clinicians (including myself) are undereducated and ignorant to the deeper facts about acupuncture.  Up until yesterday, I could have had a reasonable cocktail conversation about acupuncture but not much else. 

The same goes with Neil; he never heard of Anatomy Trains prior to our meet-up.  He stated however that one of the physicians who taught in the acupuncture curriculum at Harvard said fascia was an important and integral part of the discussion in mechanism of treatment.  He ended up leaving left with my copy of Anatomy Trains, swapping with me the Color Atlas of Acupuncture.  The fact that we know our clinical worlds correlate more than casually will provide both of us with subjects for further research moving forward.


More Questions

I learned a lot hanging out with Neil, and our meeting also left me with many additional questions; I'll list just a few here:

1)  Can we combine acupuncture and exercise at the same time?  An example would be if we are treating for neck pain (generic, I know), can we activate middle and lower trapezius while dry needling is going on along other channels?

2)  Would soft tissue therapy performed immediately before or after needling expedite the desired outcome?

3)  Does dry needling/acupuncture allow synergistic effects of herbal/vitamin/medical therapies? 

I am looking forward to pursuing the answers to these questions clinically, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of acupuncture and how it fits in with what we do, both from a rehabilitation and performance standpoint.