I am often asked, "How do neural therapy and acupuncture compare?" ‐ a fair question, but not an easy one to answer. The main difficulty is that they are similar in some respects, but different in many others.
Both systems lie outside the medical mainstream; both use needles and both achieve results where "conventional" medicine has reached its limit. But beyond these similarities lie some big differences.
Acupuncture derives from a four thousand year old medical tradition, rich in clinical observation, but (until recently) devoid of what we in the West would call a scientific basis. Neural therapy is only decades old and right from its beginning has been an offspring of Western physiology, anatomy and biophysics.
Despite these similarities and differences, there are areas in which the two systems overlap. It did not take long for neural therapists to discover that injecting procaine into certain acupuncture points had powerful remote effects. For example Yintang (Extra 1) and Zanzhu (U.B. 2) (points between the eyebrows), and Hegu (L.I.4)) in the thenar eminence are used in treating facial sinus interference fields. And in the 1950s Voll (using galvanometric measurements) discovered that each tooth lies on an acupuncture meridian and that neural therapy of the tooth can treat organs and structures along that meridian.
Those using autonomic response testing know that touching an active acupuncture point will trigger an autonomic response (weakening or strengthening of an indicator muscle). In the case of Zhongfu (lung 1), an "alarm point", an autonomic response indicates that the lung itself is an interference field.
Western anatomical study of the acupuncture point has demonstrated that it is a real structure, a "window" through the dermis connecting the extracellular space or matrix, with the outside world. It is richly supplied with autonomic nerve fibers, thus suggesting that one of the effects of acupuncture could be to stimulate the autonomic nervous system.
Also the effect of the needle puncture itself, quite apart from the procaine injection, was shown in the 1970s by Pischinger to have effects on systemic biochemistry lasting days (the "puncture effect"). Could it be that at times neural therapists are accidentally and unknowingly practicing acupuncture?
Be that as it may, there are times when neural therapy succeeds where acupuncture fails, and other times when acupuncture succeeds where neural therapy has failed. In any case, the neural therapist makes a good investment in time to learn at least some acupuncture.
One area of acupuncture theory of practical value to the neural therapist is the location of the acupuncture meridians. It is not necessary to memorize every point, but a good general knowledge pays dividends. For example, the stomach meridians cross the cheeks, more or less in the area where one finds rosacea. Rosacea has more than one cause, but stomach trouble, especially hypochlorhydria is one of them.
Pain can sometimes be felt along an acupuncture meridian or in a specific spot corresponding to an interference field in the organ of that meridian. Unexplained leg pains can sometimes be traced along a path indicating interference fields in the liver or gall bladder. I have seen pain corresponding to the bizarre zigzag pattern of the gall bladder meridian on the side of the head.
Recently a patient presented in my office with pain at the base of her first metacarpal. Pain in this area, especially if it is bilateral, is sometimes caused by a stomach problem, (perhaps referral to the C6 dermatome?). However in this case the patient had an interference field in the ipsilateral lung. (The painful spot in the wrist was near Taiyuan, lung 9). Neural therapy of the lung produced immediate relief of the wrist pain. Repeat sessions cured it.
Another interesting case involving a lung acupuncture point was a patient with constant shoulder pain precipitated by a steroid injection into the shoulder joint. My first thought was that the puncture site itself (an anterior approach) was an interference field, as autonomic response testing over the injection site was positive. However neural therapy of the injection site gave indifferent results. It was then I wondered if the autonomic response might have something to do with the lung, as it coincided more or less with acupuncture point Zhongfu (Lung1). Neural therapy of the lung gave instant relief of the shoulder pain.
My knowledge of acupuncture is quite limited and I suspect many of my readers could say more about the interconnections of neural therapy and acupuncture than I can. However I offer these observations simply as an encouragement for readers to be alert to the possibilities of combining perspectives from different medical traditions. As always, comments (and corrections) from readers are welcome.
Robert F. Kidd, MD, CM