The New Needles: Integrating TCM with Modern Research and Practices

submitted by Rod LeBlanc

We are facing professional challenges through the next years: The more acupuncture needles are shown to work, the more needles will be used by conventional medicine. TCM acupuncture will no longer be our sole domain – just as we are sharing the high risk practice of acupuncture, the changes in the scope of practice/reserved acts mean that we are going to be sharing the high risk practice of injections

TCM has a history of integration. In 1958, Dr. Zhu Yu of the 4th hospital Xian Province injected herbs into acupuncture points influenced by Russian neuro-reflex- regulation. In 1957, the French neurologist Dr. Paul Nogier MD became the Father of Auricular Therapy by developing the ear map used by the barefoot doctors and led to 14,000 licensed acupuncture doctors in Germany.

The new research in connective tissue, fascial anatomy and acupuncture meridians in China, North America, and Europe is merging into a new scientific understanding. Nanjing TCM University received millions of dollars in funding for the new Fu Shen (Fu Zhen 浮針 ) Institute and their myofascial model of acupuncture, Fu’s Subcutaneous Needling. Dr. Helen Langevin’s MD. L.Ac.’s multi million dollar research grant funded research in connective tissue cellular communication at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School. To quote her. “ I believe that the development of integrative medicine is an important component of medical and scientific progress.”  It’s a waste of our time trying to stop or monitor the other profession’s use of the filiform needle. The Health Profession’s Act allows them to do it.

Luckily we know how to use needles better and better yet, we should be able to use more than one type of needle; Injection therapies are natural extension of our therapies. There is a significant learning curve in learning therapeutic injections and it’s not about giving a “shot” in a “spot.” Nor are we talking about dangerous restricted substances like cortisone shots which carry a very high risk of pain, contamination, and liability.

The research and development of TCM (herbal) injections is an important innovation of modernization of TCM, with great clinical value.  Figures released by the China Food and Drug Administration show 140 types of TCM injections available from 150 domestic pharmaceutical firms. However, the reports of adverse events of TCM injections have gradually increased with the enlargement of these applications. These adverse reactions – more than 170,000 cases, according to figures from the Chinese authorities in 2012 – involved the use of contaminated substances, inappropriate combinations of substances, a complicated mix of ingredients that can produce allergic reactions, unreliable herb sources, unreasonable utilization, misused dosage, formula not corresponding to syndromes, or non-unified combinations of western and TCM herbs.

All medicines as injections have higher risks but greater clinical value than by other means of delivery.  For that reason, in 2008 the Society for Acupoint Injection Therapy (SAIT), evolved from Andrew Taylor and Philipe Souvestre’s Pacific Coast TCM and Advanced Institute (2003).  Mandated to maintain a safety standard, SAIT provides the most comprehensive injection training in Canada by bringing in the top US doctors in this field. Classes for acupuncturists are right here in BC, so that the huge cost of learning these skills are affordable to our fledgling college registrants.

Further significant objectives of SAIT were to form alliances with local pharmacists to procure safe substances, guidance in proper use and dosage, and provide valuable economic support to our communities. A Class 4 compounding pharmacy can guarantee purity and is capable of immediate responses and information on use.   All vitamins, amino acids, procaine, and dextrose produced in a compounding pharmacy have been swallowed and injected for up to 120 years now with more research on safety than any of the herbal substance available to us.

Our patients are serious about getting better fast; We live in a drive by society.  As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step in the same river twice”,  meaning you really only have one chance to be good with your patients. Our connective tissue disorders of today face a problematic food chain with serious nutritional inadequacies, medication complications, stress complications, disease mutations, chronic Lyme and viral conditions, climate changes with more warm diseases. If the venerable bumble bee can’t survive  pesticide/herbicide/GMO use, how are we going to?  TCM, integrated with other holistic methods in these situations can be extremely beneficial, effective, safe, and curative.

submitted by: Rod LeBlanc Dr. TCM