Ancient practice working into skincare

May 01, 2007, 4:00am

Acupuncture can be a useful therapeutic tool to help promote the normalization of autonomic, neuroendocrine and immune function, as well as to help improve the total health and well-being of patients. It is used across the spectrum of disciplines in medicine and has also found its niche in modern dermatology.

Key Points

"Acupuncture is often implemented when conventional medicine is ineffective or to avoid the unwanted side effects of conventional therapies. Treatment is aimed at both the symptoms as well as the root cause of the disease," Dr. Baker says.

According to Dr. Baker, traditional reviews of acupuncture report effectiveness in skin diseases such as acute and chronic urticaria, acne, herpes zoster, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Furthermore, he says there are various case reports of acupuncture's effectiveness in treating diseases such as rosacea, pruritus, lupus, tinea capitis and pedis, seborrheic dermatitis, verruca vulgaris, alopecia, pityriasis rosea, dyshidrotic eczema and granuloma annulare, among others.

"The basic goal of acupuncture is to balance yin and yang, which represent the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, and thereby regulate physiologic function, neuroendocrine function and immunity," Dr. Baker says.

The sympathetic nervous system is known to trigger the "fight or flight" response and can be thought of as the yang and the qi - which is the organizing life force of the body and the impulse and neural control of the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the rest and repair of physiologic processes and is represented by the yin and the blood - responsible for the transport and homeostasis of nutrients, gases and water to all tissues, as well as the transport of immune cells, cytokines, neuropeptides, hormones and heat.

Dr. Baker explains that the mind-body communication is bidirectional. The internal or external stressful stimuli (physical or emotional) are registered in the cerebral cortex and cause biological signals that activate the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and central nervous system. Afferent impulses are channeled through the spinal cord to the central nervous system and/or organs. These afferent impulses (orthodromic action potentials) may also trigger efferent impulses to the peripheral nervous system (antidromic action potentials). Therefore, stressful peripheral stimuli like acupuncture needles can cause orthodromic action potentials, as well as anti-dromic action potentials.

The metal needles used in acupuncture are strategically placed into the body and generate electrical activity. The needle, together with the electrolytes in the body fluids, creates a simple microcurrent battery. The needle tip acts as the anode (+) and the handle as the cathode (-).

Acupuncture has the potential to promote healing by causing alterations in:

1. the electrical action potentials in the nerves;

2. the ionic flow in the lymph;

3. semiconduction in the fascia and connective tissues;

4. biological and biochemical information, Dr. Baker tells Dermatology Times.

Dr. Baker explains that acupoint locations are surface depressions along muscle cleavage planes and are divided into four types:

Acupoints are organized into channels or meridians and are preferential conduction pathways in the body and developmental planes of biological influence. Meridians tend to follow nerves (A- & C- fiber receptive fields in skin and muscle), arteries (perivascular sympathetic nerves), dermatomes and Blaschko's lines, as well as fascial planes.