Context: The mechanisms by which osteopathic cranial manipulative medicine (OCMM) promotes health and healing have yet to be fully elucidated. One commonly utilized OCMM technique, compression of the fourth ventricle (CV4), has been theorized to balance autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity. There is growing evidence that the ANS also plays a significant mechanistic role in acupuncture. Potential connections between OCMM and acupuncture meridian theory largely remain unknown.
Objectives: By measuring specific electrical parameters at acupuncture points that have been shown to correlate with ANS activity, the objectives of this study were to: 1) determine if CV4 has any influence on the bioelectric properties of the acupuncture meridian system; and 2) determine if CV4 affects the ANS.
Methods: A total of 77 males and females ages 18–78 years, all volunteers recruited by local flyers and personal or phone contact, were randomized into CV4 (n=40) and Sham (n=37) groups. All CV4 participants were treated by the same physician utilizing standard CV4 protocol. The Sham treatment, performed by a different physician, consisted of the supine participant’s occiput resting passively on the physician’s finger pads for a similar duration as those in the CV4 group. Among several devices developed to assess ANS activity at acupuncture points, evidence suggests that the Apparatus for Meridian Identification (AMI) is the most accurate and valid. Utilizing the AMI, bioelectric skin parameters were measured immediately before and after CV4 or Sham treatments. Student’s or Welch’s t tests and Wilcoxon tests were utilized for analysis of normally and non-normally distributed data, respectively.
Results: Statistical significance was determined with a p value less than 0.05. Sham treatments showed insignificant (p=0.754) before vs. after differences in ANS activity measured at acupuncture points, whereas CV4 treatment significantly (p=0.00015) affected ANS activity.
Conclusions: This research suggests that CV4 has demonstrable biophysical effects on the acupuncture meridian system occurring via the ANS, and that the underlying mechanisms of OCMM and acupuncture may be related. Further studies are needed to clarify this.