The electromagnetic spectrum offers many possibilities for stimulating acupuncture points. We know only too well that this energy may initiate its action on the very fundamental structure of all life: the atom. The placement of needles in the acupuncture point, which is a physiological complex of blood and lymphatic vessels, nerve fibers, and conjunctive tissues, may also influence sub-atomic changes in the energy flowing through the meridian. The needle, having thermo-electric properties, may act as a promoter of electron movements in and out of this complex system. Indeed, the mechanical effect of pressure on the acupuncture point also elicits a biological cascade of events.
It is not surprising that our ancient colleagues found that electrical energy discharged from a Layden jar could have significant influence on acupuncture therapy. Today, the majority of us use complex electronic stimulators as a force multiplier for a therapeutic advantage over the needle prick. Higher up on the electromagnetic spectrum at a wavelength of about 600-1000 nanometers is the clinically useful area of photon emission that we call "laser." The "light" is monochromatic and highly coherent, and we are interested in low-energy emission in the 5-400 milliwatt output range. The useful energy passes through the skin and may be directed onto the acupuncture point. The absorption of this photo energy at the acupuncture site can produce biochemical, electrical, and bio-energetic reactions.
Some laser devices have Nogier's frequencies superimposed on the laser emission. I have had patients respond significantly to a laser when not having responded to electro-auriculotherapy; I have also had the converse experience. There are many advantages of using these devices in our everyday clinical and research activities.
Regrettably, there has not been a single article dealing with laser acupuncture in the last 6 years in Medical Acupuncture. Even though this is a vast and complex field, certainly it is within our grasp. I would like to challenge our readership for a series of practical articles dealing with the fundamental concepts of laser acupuncture that will be clinically useful. FDA regulations govern the use of low-energy lasers and thus, we need to know what state and federal standards need compliance.
We undoubtedly do not know the ideal treatment times for various laser applications. Because of the small penetration depth of the laser beam, only certain superficial acupuncture points are suitable. We need to perform extensive research to ascertain optimal usefulness of the laser in clinical acupuncture practice. A laser can be very dangerous if there is eye exposure. Safety precautions must be expounded upon.
In my own practice, I have an 830-nanometer laser with an output of 400 milliwatts capable of continuous or pulsed frequencies up to 2500 Hz. (I have met institutional and FDA requirements.) I plan to perform clinical research comparing electroacupuncture to laser acupuncture for the relief of pain. My preferred ear points are the cingulate gyrus and thalamic points. I find this very exciting since learning a new area of acupuncture is mindboggling, to say the least. I have met physicians who devote full-time to laser acupuncture. My hope is that you will come forward – as our readers would certainly be intrigued with your knowledge.
In closing, I would like to say that too many valuable undertakings such as this do not become priorities in our busy lives. It is of utmost importance that we somehow find the balancing point. Psychiatrist Sonya Miles, MD, states, "Balance results when mind/body/spirit are in harmony. Spend time with loved ones touching, talking, laughing, and playing. They are a great buffer against the everyday stress inherent in any human life."
I ask myself, How do we find room in our lives for yet one more project and still another? Sometimes when I sit back and contemplate where is my own balancing point, I usually do not find a real answer. I have found that sometimes it is useful to just let the project balance itself into my life, and let the balance be a hop, skip, and jump over life's stresses by having, you guessed it, FUN!
Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
Dr Richard C. Niemtzow is a Radiation Oncologist and Colonel in the United States Air Force. He is the Chief Medical Consultant for Alternative Medicine for the Air Force Surgeon General. In addition to his research activities, Dr Niemtzow practices Medical Acupuncture full-time at Malcolm Grow Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. He is Chairman of the AAMA Research Committee.
Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
9800 Cherry Hill Rd
College Park, MD 2074089
Phone: 301-937-7424 • Fax: 301-937-3205
Colonel (Dr) Richard C. Niemtzow
Medical Group (AMC)
Malcolm Grow Medical Center
Andrews AFB, MD 20762