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Neurofunctional Acupuncture

Contemporary Medical Acupuncture aims to bridge the gap between classical acupuncture therapy and contemporary medicine to achieve their ultimate integration. Quite often you will see this technique referred to as Neurofunctional Acupuncture because it is rooted on current concepts of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, and pathophysiology. Its primary benefit is to restore proper function of the nervous system by either the up-regulation or down-regulation of specific cellular functions. To put it simply, if the nervous system is hyper-active as seen in stress and chronic pain cases or hypo-active as seen in muscle inhibition and weakness, we need to bring it back to a normal, optimal level of function by either turning it down or turning it up respectively. Essentially, we are adjusting the “dimmer” switch you would use in a home for controlling the level of light output.

It involves a comfortable insertion of small solid single-use disposable needles at relevant points on the body in combination with manual needle stimulation or electrical stimulation.

Unlike classical acupuncture which involves using tongue and pulse as a diagnosis, a Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Practitioner relies on a thorough history taking and physical examination in order to determine a proper diagnosis. Needle insertion points are based on the practitioners’ extensive knowledge of neuromuscular anatomy in order to alter nerve flow and/or muscle tone.

How does this apply in a practical situation?
We have all seen and heard of people doing squats to strengthen their gluteal muscles (aka butt muscles) in order to increase their stability and strengthen their core but quite often they don’t seem to be making any progress. People feel that doing more squats with more weight is necessary in order to get stronger and still, there doesn’t seem to be any progress. Typically, people will end up hurting a knee or some other joint at some point because it was more weight than their body could comfortably handle. The muscle they have been trying to strengthen is neurologically weak not physiologically weak. They have been trying to activate the wrong system!

Using the “dimmer” switch scenario mentioned earlier, if we have the switch set on dim, where only 30% of the electrical current is making it to the light bulb, then it’s only going to have a 30% output. The specific nerve going to the fibers of the gluteal muscles has somehow got stuck on “dim”, therefore, in this example only 30% of the muscle fibers are working. This could be due to a number of factors such as prior history of trauma, improper muscle use over and over or maybe it happened through general inactivity (if you don’t use it, you lose it). Whatever the cause, we need to turn the nerve back on by up-regulating it. The results can be instantaneous. The nerve is now transmitting 100% of the electrical impulse to 100% of the muscle fibers. Only now, when proper neuromuscular function has been restored, can an effective core strengthening program be given and results seen!

Contrary to popular belief, acupuncture treatment has been very well studied in both eastern and western scientific literature. The scientifically proven benefits of acupuncture are used as a component of treatment plans for a variety of conditions.


Dr. Beth Nugent DACM, L.Ac

Office hours by appointment

Home visits also available