Acupuncture and the Interstitium
In recent months, there was a great deal of press about the research that “discovered” a new organ in the body called the Interstitium. The Interstitium is the layer of tissue below the skin and previously had been considered simply a “space occupying area” or, at most, a structural support scaffolding.
What the researchers discovered, when they looked at it with a more physiological point of view and without the typical dehydrated microscope slide, they received a more 3 – D outlook. This caused them to say, “Once you see it; you cannot unsee it”.
The Interstitium was previously interpreted to be more like a wall, but now, it is thought of as appearing like a fluid-filled highway. This finding very much intrigued me. Why? Because I am one of the few Family Practice Physicians who also incorporates Acupuncture Care into my patient’s regimen. That being said, my first personal thought was that this finding most directly might impact the acceptance of acupuncture into the mainstream.
For years, medical researchers have sought to explain why acupuncture works. Since we had no good visible or tangible scientific explanation, Western medicine has discounted this miraculous ancient practice as similar to magic or witchcraft. (Even though the results are undenyable).
Earlier scientific researchers had come up with potential explanations that include an unseen transmission of signals (either through electrical pathways), or through fluid transmissions or even along tissue planes.
Enter the Interstitium. Acupuncture needles typically are placed to a depth level of the interstitium. The needles can be unstimulated or stimulated with moxa smoke or electricity for increased effect. In some cases, the results can affect areas of the body far away from the needle locations, and sometimes these healing effects will trigger a response literally at the speed of light. The triggered healing effect some distance away from the problem doesn’t make sense, unless there is a good alternative pathway such as the interstitium. If the interstitium is a super water-based communications network then acupuncture immediately makes more sense.
One might then wonder, “Why acupressure and non needle acupuncture point stimulation works?” In my experience, these do work of course, but not typically quite as strong as needle stimulation of the same points. In addition… acupressure, Shiatsu, or in some cases “tapping” have to be done with enough depth force for it to be effective at all. Another interesting point, is that some acupuncturists have found out that laser acupuncture can be quite helpful. However, the type and color of laser seems to make a big difference in efficacy, perhaps because of the more optimal depth of tissue stimulation.
This article is merely my educated opinion and speculation through years, of experience, practice and study… but what is NOT my opinion, is that acupuncture works, and that our understanding about why it works has been elusive.
Perhaps until now.
Dr. Erik Koda M.D. is a Family Practice Physician in Southern California who has a thriving practice that also integrates Acupuncture with patient care. Dr. Koda is also a retired Air Force Colonel and Flight Surgeon who was in charge of his own Medical Unit. One of the unique aspects about this Air Force Medical Unit, was they implemented Acupuncture directly in the battlefield for pain relief INSTEAD of I.V. Narcotics for a much better, and longer result, (3 to 5 days). The Air Force continues to do this for over 10 years now. Listen to this fascinating 10 minute interview when Dr. Koda explain’s how it works.