Physical Procedures

An Interesting New Application of an Old Procedure

By John Diamond, M.D.

A very rare article on the subject of acupuncture appeared in a scientific journal and I decided to explore it further. The article described a technique for restraining horses, “twitching,” which has “been used for many years by farmers and veterinarians who wanted to perform minor procedures such as shoeing, medical examinations, and injections.” The twitch is a wooden stick with a loop of rope at the end. The loop is twisted rather tightly around the upper lip of the horse. Then “the horse becomes quieter, appears somewhat sedated, the eyelids drop, and its hostile attitude decreases. The horse’s interest in its surroundings diminishes and it becomes difficult to stimulate it to walk. The tolerance and acceptance of pain increases.”

The authors demonstrated that the twitch procedure significantly lowers the reaction of the animals to painful stimuli, and that “shortly after applying the twitch immunoreactive betaendorphin was elevated in plasma, indicating that the twitch procedure may indeed activate the endorphin systems in the body.” They postulated that the twitch “may be regarded as a Western example of acupuncture.”

In the next issue of Science, in a letter to the editor, Paul W. Leslie and J. Terrence McCabe reported on their own research among the Turkana tribe of northwest Kenya. They state that they “have observed what may be another example of this ‘variant of acupuncture.’” The Turkana are “nomadic pastoralists who derive a substantial portion of their diet from blood drawn from their herd animals.” Camels are bled from the jugular vein. “Inducing a fully grown camel to sit still for such an operation would seem to be a formidable task, but Turkana of both sexes routinely bring camels to their knees (literally) by grasping both lips firmly, one with each hand. The beasts do bellow, but are otherwise surprisingly passive during what is surely a painful procedure. This manual twitch is also employed during branding.”

I decided to research the effect of the twitch on humans. I found that when a subject squeezed his upper lip fairly firmly, but not so hard as to be painful (the same caveat as given by the authors), there was an immediate increase in acupuncture energy. Everyone who tried it felt more relaxed. We found on further examination that the circulation sex meridian, and the associated state of sexual tension, were affected. At this early stage, the procedure seems useful for stress reduction, sedation, and the reduction of sexual tension.