Electrical testing and acupuncture without needles: is there a point?

The AcuGraph Meridian Test claims to pinpoint problems by measuring the conductivity of acupuncture points to find imbalances in the invisible energy pathways of the body and running the results through a computer program

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 7:01am

If you have always liked the idea of acupuncture but been put off by the prospect of needles, there is a non-invasive alternative. Laser acupuncture, a relatively new method of stimulation, uses low-energy lasers to influence the flow of current at the acupoints. And a smart complement to this is the AcuGraph Meridian Test that has recently landed in Hong Kong.

Australian acupuncturist Matthew Scott has introduced the AcuGraph Test at Dr Susan Jamieson Integrative Medical Practice in Central. It’s a quick and simple computerised exam that spins out reams of information about your body.

Like a lot of people I’m not a fan of needles and only agreed to check out the AcuGraph on the assurance I wouldn’t be treated like a pincushion. The test itself only takes about 15 minutes. I sit in a chair opposite Scott and he asks me to hold a metal bar in my right hand while he touches a pen-like probe to various spots on my left hand.

“What I’m doing is measuring the acupuncture points on the body’s 12 main meridians – each meridian on both sides of the body,” says Scott, who has been practising acupuncture since 1990.

According to acupuncturists, meridians are invisible energy pathways that conduct the life-force energy or qi around our body. Blockages in the pathways are said to cause energetic imbalances. Acupuncture treatment aims to restore the proper energy flow to the meridians so that the body can function normally.

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Scott asks me to hold the metal bar in my left hand while he tests the meridian points on my right hand. Then he does the same to my feet. I don’t feel anything, but the computer that is attached to the metal bar makes all sorts of bleeps as the data is recorded and displayed on the screen.

The bar chart shows the body’s 12 meridians, each one representing data for the left and right sides of the body. When the left and right sides of the meridian are balanced it is shown as green – this is what you want. Seven of my meridians are green, one is red (too much energy), one is blue (too little energy) and the rest are purple (split).

“When it is red, it means there is an excess of energy flowing through the meridian and that normally means you get pain,” says Scott.

He is right. The red meridian relates to shoulder pain and like a lot of people who spend too much time hunched over a computer, I suffer from shoulder and neck pain.

“One of your arm meridians is out of balance today so I know I’ve got to treat that meridian. And I know which specific acupuncture point on that meridian I need to treat in order to bring it into balance,” he says.

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A Japanese doctor in the 1950s – Dr Yoshio Nakatani – noticed areas of altered electrical conductivity on the skin of patients with various diseases. Those areas were found to be about 1cm in diameter and generally followed the Chinese acupuncture meridians. He created a very crude system for testing the conductivity of these points, and in 2002 Miridia Technology developed the AcuGraph. It has been revised and updated since.

The AcuGraph test replaces traditional acupuncturists’ method of gauging imbalances by taking the patient’s pulse.

“A lot of people think that’s weird and it can’t be explained properly to them. They see the technology and the chart and that the imbalances can be tied to their health, and immediately they get that,” says Scott.

Scott studied traditional acupuncture using needles and pulse diagnosis, but when his children were born he wanted a more child-friendly treatment.

“I discovered there were these lasers and micro-current devices and found they worked well on kids. And then I started doing it on adults as well,” he says.

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People typically make an appointment when they are experiencing pain, but interestingly in Chinese medicine there are not just physical symptoms, but also emotional ones. For example, the lung meridian that is unbalanced could indicate a range of respiratory issues, such as breathing or sinus problems, but it is also related to people who worry too much.

“Some people will have the respiratory symptoms and some will have the emotional ones,” says Scott.

Treatment isn’t dependent on acknowledging whether it’s a physical or emotional issue. Once the specific point on the meridian has been identified on the AcuGraph, Scott can use a laser device to restore balance.

“Typically people come in weekly and see which meridians are balanced and which aren’t and the patient can see it all on the graph,” he says.

An AcuGraph report is emailed to the patient after the consultation. I’m a Fitbit fan and big data junkie so I loved going through my 12-page test report. Unfortunately I was only there for the test so I can’t vouch for whether the acupuncture treatment works, but it certainly succeeded in pinpointing the exact spot where I was experiencing pain. Scott says that most health insurance schemes will cover the treatment, so next time my shoulder really plays up I will make an appointment to go back and try the full treatment.