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APPLYING PHYSICS TO ACUPUNCTURE

15 Aug 2012

This diagram is courtesy of allaboutcircuits.com

The field of electrophysiology has grown tremendously since the first experiments by Volta
and Galvani on frog legs in the 1700s. Through advances in scientific research and
biomedicine over the past 200-plus years, the basics of electricity and human body are now
common knowledge: children learn to avoid inserting their fingers into wall sockets, for
example. This is an example of an exterior electrical source acting on the body and affecting
processes within the body. An example of the bodys innate electrical signals is the electrical
impulse that creates a heartbeat. Simply defined, electrophysiology is the study of the
electrical properties of biological cells and tissues.

This field includes the study of electrical activity within the nervous system, internal organs,
and muscle fibers. It also includes the study of ions and their movement through channels in
cell membranes. It is this latter subject, the movement of ions within the body, that is the
focus of this paper. Specifically, Kirchhoffs Voltage Law and Ohms Law as applied to the
movement of ions using ion pumping cords as an adjunct acupuncture modality.

Electrophysiology and Ion Channels


Lifes chemistry of aqueous solutions employs ions as carriers of cell signals. Such a signal
is the action potential. ... More than conveying rapid excitation by action potentials alone,
other internal cell processes are initiated by ion signals. Accordingly, the expression of these
proteins is not restricted to excitable cells such as neurons or muscle but can be observed in
external and internal membranes of almost all cells.

Electrophysiologists have come to understand the intricacies of electrical signals within the
body on a cellular level, classifying diseases now by individual ion channel pathology, and

understanding the role of heredity in ion channelopathies. Given the essential role of ion
channels in cellular function, and thus overall health, it is possible to see how regulating ion
channel pathways may be a powerful tool in the prevention and treatment of disease.

Ion Pumping Cords


Ion pumping cords were first developed and explored by Yoshio Manaka in the 1940s. An ion
pumping cord consists of a thin copper wire, a germanium diode, and a small clamp at each
end of the wire. Inert on their own, ion pumping cords use the bodys own electric currents
in the form of ions to create a circuit between two acupuncture needles. By deliberately
attaching the positive and negative ends of the cord to acupuncture needles inserted at
specific points, a practitioner creates a channel through which the bodys ions flow in a single
direction.

Ion pumping cords were initially developed and used to treat burn victims. Severe burns
cause an increase in extracellular potassium (K+). The function of the ion pumping cord is to
pump the excess potassium ions away from the burned area and facilitate healing. This is
achieved with the germanium diode (32Ge), which allows unidirectional flow of ions along the
cord.

Potassium, Germanium, and the Human Body


Potassium (K+) is one of the major cations (positively charged ions) in the body. It is
essential for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive
system. Potassium functions primarily within the cell; 98% of the bodys potassium is found
in intracellular fluid, with the remaining 2% found in extracellular fluid. As an element,
potassium has the atomic number 19, and the atomic weight 39. It is an alkali metal and
solid at room temperature. Potassium is also paramagnetic, meaning that it is only
attracted when in the presence of an externally applied magnetic field. ... Paramagnetic
properties are due to the presence of some unpaired electrons and from the realignment of
the electron paths caused by the external magnetic field.

The potassium ion channel is a voltage-gated cation channel, meaning that it has at least
one open state and two closed states, the resting state from which the channels can be
activated, i.e., opened. At the resting potential, their open probability is extremely low,
meaning that only very few channels open randomly. Depolarization causes channel
activation by markedly increasing open probability. During maintained depolarization, open
probability is time-dependently and not voltage-dependently reduced by channel inactivation,
leading to a closed state from which the channels cannot immediately be reactivated. Taken
together, this means that potassium is an important ion, crucial for both gross and minute

functions in the body, from preventing muscle cramps after exercise to maintaining the
proper electrochemical gradient over the cell membranes in the body.

Germanium has the atomic number 32, atomic weight of 72.64, and is a semi-metal with
four electrons in its valence shell. This outer shell can hold up to eight electrons.
Germanium is used in semi-conductors and some cancer treatments, and is a controversial
health supplement with long-term ingestion linked to renal failure.

Although Manaka does not explain specifically why germanium was selected as the material
of choice for the ion pumping cords diode, it is possible to assume that some of the
aforementioned properties were considered favorable for this application. Germanium
became popular in Japan as a dietary supplement during the 1970s (prior to research linking
it to renal failure). More likely, however, is the fact that germanium is conductive, and would
therefore be ideal in creating electrical potential in the ion pumping cord circuit.

Applying Physics
To use the ion pumping cords, two acupuncture needles should be inserted shallowly (2mm)
into the patient, with one needle inserted distally on the body and the other inserted in an
undamaged part of the body. (One must assume by Manakas statement that the burn or
damaged tissue is distal.) The positive end of the ion pumping cord is attached to the distal
needle and the negative end attached to the undamaged tissue. The four electrons in the
germaniums valence/ conduction shell provide potential energy when a potential difference
is applied, such as with potassium (K+), creating a current. The following excerpt from an
electricians website explains:

"When a difference of potential is applied across a conductor the surplus (excedente)


electrons from the negative source dump (descarrega) electrons into the atoms of the
conductor displacing (deslocando) their original atoms which migrate to the next atom and
the process is repeated over and over creating a domino effect through the conductor. The
opposite is true at the other end of the wire on the positive side. The atoms of the conductor
connected to the positive source are being robbed of their electrons so they rob the electron
from their neighbor and so on."

Imagine the electrons lined up single file along the copper wire within the cord, as the first
electron drops down the acupuncture needle into the body to join a K + ion the domino effect
begins: electrons then migrate from atom to atom along the circuit and until they finally
ascend the second acupuncture needle and line up along the wire. While the ascent and
descent of the electrons on the needles may occur in rapid succession, the conductance of

electrons along the length of the circuit may in fact be much slower.

When applied to the

case of ion pumping cords and the human body, half of this circuit occurs in the ion pumping
cord outside of the body, and half of the circuit occurs between the inserted needles either
along the surface of the skin, just beneath the skin, or through the body fluids beneath the
skin, as conjectured by Manaka.

All components of the circuit created during an ion pumping cord treatment are conductors:
the acupuncture needles, the copper wire, germanium diode, and the body of the patient.
But how does it work? Potassium (K+) is a positively charged ion, with elevated extracellular
levels in burn victims. Germanium (Ge) is a semi-metal with four electrons in its valence
shell and conductive. With some types of materials, such as metals, the outermost
electrons in the atoms are so loosely bound that they chaotically move in the space between
the atoms of that material by nothing more than the influence of room-temperature heat
energy. Because these virtually unbound electrons are free to leave their respective atoms,
they are often called free electrons. This means that the free electrons of the germanium
have electric potential. When connected to the body via acupuncture needles, those
electrons will be drawn (puxados) via the acupuncture needles to the excess accumulation of
extracellular K+ ions, which are able to receive free electrons. This movement creates the
directional flow of the circuit. The reason for this movement is described by Kirchhoffs
Voltage Law, which states:

The algebraic sum of the voltage (potential) differences in any loop must equal zero.

This means that in order to have a complete circuit, the negative source and the positive
source must balance each other and equal zero. In this case, the germanium is the negative
source, as it is the source of the electrons being conducted, and the potassium is the positive
source as the potassium ions are positively charged. The circuit equals zero when the four
free electrons per Ge pair with four K+ ions (-4+4=0). This ratio must be maintained
according to this law. Another physical law which may be applied to the ion pumping cord
circuit is Ohms Law, which states:

V = I x R. (Voltage= current x resistance)

What is the current? Current is defined as the number of electrons that move past a given
point per second, and expressed as amps or I in the above equation. One amp =
6,280,000,000,000,000,000 (6.2818) electrons per second. Generally, a slight sensation of
electrical current may be felt at the hands (common contact site for electrical stimulation or

contact in non-medical settings) at approximately 0.6-1.0mA direct current, with the


threshold of perception at about 3.5-5.2mA (for women and men, respectively).

What is the bodys electrical resistance? This is more vague, as the bodys electrical
resistance varies based on several factors: the body part(s) in question and their composition
(as fat, muscle, and bone offer different resistance levels), the moisture level and cleanliness
of the skin in contact, the amount of pressure exerted and surface area of the body at the
contact point, etc.

However, scientific research published since Manakas book on ion

pumping cords shows that changes in electrical resistance have been measured at
acupuncture points. Applying Ohms Law to ion pumping cords makes great theoretical
sense but may prove difficult to solve, as specific values for the resistance measured at
acupuncture points has proven difficult to ascertain, coupled with the fact that the current in
question is so small that it is imperceptible to the patient and very difficult to measure.

Connecting Physics to Acupuncture Theory


Explaining or proving qi in physical terms is problematic at best, and doing so within the
context of ion pumping cord treatments is even more challenging. Even Yoshio Manaka
described the circuits created by ion pumping cords and other polarity treatments only in
terms of qi movement rather than electrical impulses, reactions, or conduction. Manakas
theory behind the ion pumping cords is based on an X-signal system in the body he
believed was yet to be discovered or explained by Western medicine. This signal system is
understood to be a subtle and primitive regulatory system that is overshadowed by more
complex systems in the body, such as the nervous system. Manaka understands this Xsignal system to be the key to acupunctures efficacy, therefore many of his treatment
approaches involved fairly gentle, subtle techniques with very shallow needling that avoided
stimulating other systems in the body such as the nervous system. By intentionally
designing the ion pumping cords to provide a subtle yet powerful treatment, Manaka
inadvertently made them difficult to measure and solve according to Ohms Law.

One challenge remains, however, in this physical analysis of ion pumping cords: the
widespread use of ion pumping cords to treat the extraordinary channels. Although Manaka
first developed this treatment for burn victims, he quickly broadened its application to other
patients, creating a detailed and extensive treatment protocol applying ion pumping cords
and other polarity devices to the extraordinary channels as well as the tonification and
sedation points on the twelve meridians. One would assume that the same physical
principles that apply to the Ge/ K+ circuit described within the context of burn treatments
would also apply to other patients. It is important to note that the application of this
hypothesis regarding the affect of ion pumping cords on K + in the body remains untested and

unproven. Similarly, the extrapolation of this hypothesis to other ions within the body and
conditions without a tie to ion channels or ionic imbalance is problematic from a physics
perspective.

Several physical laws and principles may be applied to the concept of ion pumping cords as
an adjunct acupuncture modality, yet none clearly explain or prove the treatment principle in
scientific terms. Taken what is known about electrophysiology and the role of ions in the
body, and connecting this information with the chemical properties of germanium, adding to
this the research on bioactivity and electrical resistance at acupuncture points, and finally
applying Ohms Law and Kirchhoffs Voltage Law, one is left with little more than a bundle of
loosely connected ideas.

It would be convenient to assume that the use of ion pumping

cords in broader applications (beyond the treatment of burns) serves the more general
purpose of regulating and harmonizing the ions within the body. Perhaps the ion pumping
cords act on the paramagnetic nature of ions, aligning them along the extraordinary
channels, thereby creating an ionic flow within the channels similar to qi. Perhaps the
bodys innate ability to regulate electronic charge and the balance of electrolytes across cell
membranes is compromised by daily stresses more easily than we understand, with the ion
pumping cords stimulating a return to homeostasis. Unfortunately, such hypotheses remain
untested and unproven.

It may be impossible to draw a direct correlation between Manakas X-signal system


explanation of ion pumping cords and known biomedical systems based on current data,
however, continual advances in research and technology may eventually reveal a
connection. For example, new research supports Manakas emphasis on shallow needling:
greater levels of bioactivity recorded at shallower depths of acupuncture points versus
deeper depths at the same points. Additionally, ion channels are gaining more recognition as
vital components of larger disease mechanisms and may eventually shed more light on
Manakas theory. Further research is clearly warranted on this topic to augment Manakas
extensive clinical experience and experiments on the use of polarity within acupuncture
treatments and the outcomes of wellness.

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