The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture
by John E. PirogPacific View Press 1996
The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture is one of the more interesting books to come out of the American Acupuncture press. Most acupuncture books written and translated into English are basically texts used for teaching purposes. This book is written with an independent voice of inquiry and Pirog has distinguished himself by the depth of his study. To its credit, the tone of the book is like that of a journal article exploring new ideas and concepts.
A “classic” like Chinese Acupuncture and Moxabustion is not really the “best of TCM” that has filtered down through the centuries. However, it IS an incredibly good teaching tool for millions of Chinese and thousands of Western students. In its scope, CAM is unparalleled but we would all agree it doesn’t have a lot of depth. Meridian Style Acupuncture has, if not answered, addressed many questions left unsaid by texts and teachers.
Although Meridian Style Acupuncture is aimed at practicing acupuncturists, students should definitely read it. It also could be used as a textbook for acupuncture classes.
Meridian Style Acupuncture is divided into five sections. The first and shortest is what Pirog calls a “simplified” approach to making an acupuncture prescription. It really serves as a coherent and concise introduction to his approach for the rest of the book. Pirog introduces the chapter by pointing out the differences between needling techniques and makes clear why finding the point location changes according to how one uses the needles. As I understand it, he says that (in general) the “harder” Chinese needling technique reaches out to the point to be affected. “Softer” and shallower Japanese needling must be exactly on the point thus more palpation is needed to determine the point. This is a refreshingly non-judgmental assessment and one that clears a lot of confusion between different styles of acupuncture.
Pirog says that “meridian therapy” is the recognition of the flow of energy in the channels. The points, he eloquently states, “functions like the holes of a flute that could be opened or closed to alter the ‘tone’ of the meridian flow”. The primary role of the meridians is different than the emphasis on the points themselves as stated in most TCM text books. Pirog is able to talk about the points in exciting ways from this perspective.
The second, third and fourth sections cover much of the material in other acupuncture books but Pirog writes interesting and often lengthy discussions of the how, what and whys of the channels and the meridians. For example, he convincingly explains why we should care about the significance of distinguishing points as belonging to the Foot and Hand Tai-Yin, Shao Yin etc… Similarly, he devotes 15 pages to the Luo connecting channels. Here Pirog changes the conceptualization of their use that conforms to the indications as outlined in the Ling Shu. Acupuncturists may be surprised at the some of the conclusions he draws.
Other chapters in the second, third and fourth sections are devoted to lengthy discussions of the cutaneous zones, the proportion of Qi and Blood in the meridians, intersection points, xi-cleft, the “antique points, yuan source and entry and exit points.
Some of the writings here will not be without their controversies. I asked a acupunctuist from China to give me his opinion of the book. Although he reacted generally favorably, he mentioned several ideas that are inconsistent with acupuncture theory in China. One example which will cause much discussion is Pirog’s writings about the Chong channel. Pirog makes the argument that the Chong is a description of the arterial system. He asks whether this is why the Chong is called the “sea of blood”.
Pirog also blows away any illusions about the “window of the sky points” which so captivate many American acupuncturists. According to Pirog, the window of the sky points have no special clinical significance, despite their “heavenly” names which many say are evidence to their psychological functions.
Pirog’s discussion of the six levels is fascinating. He manages to re-frame the significance of their usage in a way that is practical and not solely theoretical.
The fifth section goes over functions for many of the points and is the weakest section of the book. Even these are not without some different conclusions. Fortunately, this section occupies only a small part of the entire book. Given the scope of the rest of the book this is a small complaint.
I was confused as to how much truly original information was in the book. Meridian Style Acupuncture flips between references to the ancient texts and what might be seen as totally original concepts. Often Pirog’s references are quotes from other footnoted sources. I felt as if his own concepts could have stood out more readily if the context for his ideas would have been referenced in relation to other books, or schools of thought. One also wishes that Pirog would have had the chance to read and comment Maoshing Ni’s newly published and imaginatively translated Su Wen as a source text.
The market for acupuncture books in the United States, new as it is, has given us many books that reflect the Chinese acupuncture school curriculum. We know that more Asian language acupuncture books will be translated into Western languages. Of no less importance are authors like Pirog who search for the best contemporary and practical solutions to our patient’s health.
Reviewed by Douglas Eisenstark L.Ac