Treating Orofacial Pain with Acupuncture Meridian Points

Pain affects 1 out of every 4 people in the United States, with 10 to 15 % of the population suffering from orofacial pain. Conventional pharmaceuticals have been standard of care for treating this sort of pain, but for chronic pain, healthier and more sustainable options should be explored.

Acupuncture, a pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for over 4,000 years as a proven treatment modality for relieving pain and promoting wellness. The principal goal is to balance the flow of energy, or life force (Qi), which flows through the pathways (meridians) in your body. There are 14 major meridian channels and even more multiple subordinate points, with up to 500 individual meridian points (MPs) located in various channels, depending on the educational source. As acupuncture is an ancient science based in various medicinal philosophies around the world, there is not an exact number of MPs. Each point is an accessible spot, or gate, which can be used to stimulate the Qi channel or pathway.

Needles are commonly used in acupuncture for channel activation, and the needling effect, including stimulation of naturally occurring opiate substances, like dynorphin (acting at the spinal cord), endorphins (acting within the brain) and enkephalin (acting in the brain and spinal cord) to relieve pain. These mechanisms work together, synergistically, to relieve pain. Just as stagnation blocks the flow of Qi, causing pain, when pathways are activated and blockages are cleared, Qi flows, relieving pain. 

Various methods throughout history have been experimented in search of the most effective way to activate the body’s various meridian systems. Early tools included stones, sharp objects and finger pressure. More modern activation tools, including filiform needles, moxibustion and cupping have today given way to modern technology applications such as laser and light energy to activate meridian systems. Research has shown the meridian system to be tightly connected with the fascial system, which wraps around the surface layer of all internal organs from head to toe. MFRI research also shows stimulating MPs increases brain function and activity (on specific MPs).

Acupuncture is beneficial only if we learn how to locate and activate MPs. Activation of the meridian system can be achieved through acupressure, for example with massage or reflexology; activation can also be accomplished using LED light, such as a handheld PBM Light unit. The most commonly used MPs are HeGu (Li4), located at the junction between the thumb and index finger. –

Li4 - HeGu

With regards to orofacial pain and the facial structure, treatment should be focused on the connection between the facial bones (Sharpey’s fibres, connective tissues) and muscle attachments on the bone. Zone mapping can be used as a technique for general MP location without needing to worry about minute, exact points.

When using light to active MPs, the red and infrared spectrums are highly effective. Warmth and/or tingling sensations will be felt at the treatment site, indicating a positive light response. Treatment can be conducted daily (if access to a PBM Light is possible). Depending on situation results can last from days to one month, and results are typically cumulative: positive responses will accumulate up to a point, followed by a plateau, but continued treatment can build to even further treatment goals.

Meridian Point Map PDF:

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