Perception of Therapeutic Qi, a Nonmechanical, Nonpsychological Factor in Acupuncture That Originates from the Therapist

J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2015 Aug;8(4):203-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2014.11.009. Epub 2014 Dec 16.


So far, most research attempts to explain the mechanism of the action of acupuncture have focused mostly on mechanically-triggered active factors and have produced inconclusive findings. In this study, we investigate whether acupuncture might also involve nonmechanical, nonpsychological active factors originating in the therapist. In 30 individuals, an acupuncture needle was inserted in the acupoint PC6 using a special device without touching the needle. A second device was used to fix the needle rigidly in place, excluding any mechanical transmission of movement from the handle to the needle's tip. Each participant was exposed in random order to a control and a stimulation phase. During the stimulation phase, the free needle's end was held by the therapist to allow the transmission of Qi; during the control phase, it was left untouched. Participants' subjective sensations during the stimulation phase and the control phase were recorded using a questionnaire. Twenty-two of 28 (79%; p = 0.003) test participants believed that they had received stimulation when it had actually been performed, and 26 (93%; p < 0.001) sensed differences between the two experimental phases. Thus, participants were able to sense the transmission of therapeutic Qi in the absence of mechanical or psychological factors.

Keywords: acupuncture; neiguan; neurobiological mechanism; single blind.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy* / instrumentation
  • Acupuncture Therapy* / psychology
  • Acupuncture*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Personnel* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needles
  • Perception
  • Qi*
  • Sensation*
  • Workforce
  • Young Adult