Myofascial referred-pain data provide physiologic evidence of acupuncture meridians

J Pain. 2009 Jul;10(7):723-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2008.12.010. Epub 2009 May 5.


Recently published data suggest substantial anatomic, clinical, and physiologic (referred pain to meridian) overlap of myofascial trigger points and acupuncture points, particularly in the treatment of pain disorders. This qualitative study examines whether myofascial referred-pain data from the Trigger Point Manual can provide independent physiologic evidence of acupuncture meridians. Trigger point regions were subdivided from prior, validated trigger point region-classical acupuncture point correspondence results into subsets according to the 12 acupuncture Organs of their anatomically corresponding acupuncture points (Bladder, Gallbladder, Heart, Kidney, Large Intestine, Liver, Lung, Pericardium, Small Intestine, Spleen, Stomach, and Triple Energizer). The referred-pain patterns for each subset of trigger point regions were graphically applied to a virtual human model along with the subset's corresponding acupuncture Principal meridian. All 12 meridian distributions were compared qualitatively with the summed referred-pain distributions of their anatomically corresponding trigger point regions. For all 12 subsets of trigger point regions, their summed referred-pain patterns accurately predicted the distributions of their corresponding acupuncture meridians, particularly in the extremities. The myofascial referred-pain data from the Trigger Point Manual provides independent physiologic evidence of acupuncture meridians. Understanding these meridians may enhance treatment of both pain and non-pain conditions.

Perspective: This article demonstrates that myofascial referred-pain data provide independent physiologic evidence of acupuncture meridians. The acupuncture tradition provides pain practitioners with millennia of accumulated clinical experience treating pain (and visceral) disorders and offers the potential for novel pain treatment approaches and understanding of pain neurophysiology.

MeSH terms

  • Gallbladder / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Large / physiopathology
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Meridians*
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Pain, Referred / physiopathology*
  • Stomach / physiopathology
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology