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Digital Meridian Imaging in Acupuncture Practice by Kimberly Thompson, LAc, MSTOM

What is Digital Meridian Imaging?

Like most acupuncturists, I gained the foundation of my education in acupuncture school, and learned what I needed to pass the boards and become licensed. But my real learning began when I opened my mind and my practice to some of the recent scientific advances in acupuncture.

It all started when I came across an acupuncture technology tool I had never heard of before. Known as Digital Meridian Imaging™ (DMI), this technique integrates modern technology with ancient Chinese wisdom to, in essence, help both me and my patients see their Qi through a fast, easy, computerized assessment.

How Can That Possibly Work?

The basis of DMI is rooted in the discoveries of several acupuncture researchers from the 1950’s. In essence, their findings show that the skin at acupuncture points tends to conduct electricity much more strongly than the skin at non-meridian sites. Furthermore, the level of circulating Qi tends to influence the electrical properties of the skin. These discoveries have led to much research and many breakthroughs over the last 60 years, ultimately culminating in fast, reliable, computerized meridian assessment. (If you want to look at some of the research, visit www.RyodorakuResearch.com.)

The upshot is that a 2-minute, computerized, electrical assessment of the main meridians, using a hand-held electronic probe, yields a complete graphical picture of the patient’s meridian balance and Qi distribution, including analysis of potential symptoms and treatment point recommendations.

Isn’t the Pulse Good Enough?

Of course, I still take pulses in my practice and use my pulse findings in conjunction with the DMI findings. But as we know, traditional pulse diagnosis can be very subjective—depending on the experience and perspective of the practitioner taking the pulse. Many masters of Chinese Medicine have said that it can take a lifetime to become an expert in pulse diagnosis; and inter-examiner reliability is poor. Recently, I attended a training seminar with Dr. Jake Fratkin, a renowned TCM practitioner of 30-plus years, who stated: “There is no pulse diagnosis in the world that is better than computer diagnosis.”  While I certainly don’t have a problem with those who rely on pulse, I feel that by using modern technology methods such as DMI to advance the science of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we can improve the care we give to our patients.

How I use DMI in my Practice:

I started using DMI, somewhat reluctantly, two years ago. After an introduction to the equipment and reading several published research studies regarding electrical skin conductance at acupuncture points, I begrudgingly agreed to try it out.  It was hard for me to imagine that a machine could possibly tell me what was happening in the meridians. By no means did I consider myself a master at pulse diagnosis at the time, but I was sure that my years of education must have fundamentally prepared me to be an efficient practitioner. Pattern and pulse diagnosis were the basis of my education—and were really all that I knew.

I was initially amazed to see the meridian imbalances right before my eyes, and even more amazed when the computer findings tended to match my personal diagnosis.

I learned to look at the graphs and see patterns such as Liver Yang Rising, Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency, and Spleen Qi Deficiency with Dampness.

Having a visual picture of the imbalances in the body has not only been useful to me, but has also proved wildly popular with my patients. Seeing the actual graph of their meridian imbalances, and watching the graphs improve with treatment has helped my patients visualize and comprehend the reality of Qi balance through acupuncture as a cornerstone of their healthcare. When they see it, they “get” it, and they become much more committed to their care. Needless to say, they also refer their friends—and my practice has become busier than ever.

As I’ve studied the DMI system further, I’ve come to realize the suggested treatment points are actually based on the mother/son relationship theory, which I learned in college. An amazing thing happened when I started trusting the graph findings and treating patients with the tonification and sedation points instead of strictly using the pattern diagnosis. Patients started getting better twice as fast. Chronic pain patients, who had been coming in for months and months, were now being released from care because their graph was balanced and their symptoms subsided. Nothing changed regarding the basic knowledge and skills that I learned in school. Instead, the DMI system became a tool to enhance my ability to treat patients more effectively. 

It Really Comes Down to Results.

To put it simply, using DMI has helped me become a better practitioner. How do I know I’m a better practitioner? Because I get better results. Even after two years, I’m still amazed at how quickly I can get results for the patient—not only symptom relief, but also subjective, evidence-based results of better energy balance in the meridians, and the resulting improvements in function throughout the body.

The ancient methods are, of course, valuable and extremely useful. But in my opinion, if you aren’t enhancing the ancient methods with modern technology tools in your practice, you’re missing out on reaching your true practice potential.

As these tools become more proven, more accepted and more popular, I believe we’ll see them become as ubiquitous in practice as acupuncture wall charts and needles. DMI is already being taught at some of the more advanced acupuncture schools.

In closing, I’ll mention that there are several DMI devices on the market, available at different price points. The one I’m most familiar with is the AcuGraph® system. If you’re looking for a DMI system, I suggest you comparison shop—based on quality, ease of use, warranty, training, technical support, upgrades, money-back guarantee, highly-educated staff, etc. In the end, the right system will prove to be a monumental benefit to your practice and your patients.

Kimberly Thompson, L.Ac. is a PCOM graduate in private practice in Meridian, Idaho. She also works as an Acupuncture Research Analyst for Miridia Technology Inc., makers of the AcuGraph® Digital Meridian Imaging™ system.