I always observe the condition of a patient’s skin in my clinic. You might wonder why the condition of a patient’s skin should matter to an acupuncturist since I am not a dermatologist. To an acupuncturist, the skin is the reflection of what is happening on the inside. The color, dryness, temperature, and the location of abnormalities provide vital information about the rest of the body. Since I spend a lot of time palpating the skin to locate acupuncture points and insert needles into the skin, I have a lot of opportunity to notice the correlation between the condition of the skin and the organs I’m treating.
Some call the skin the largest organ of the body. A Recent scientific trend says that the skin is the second brain. What both of these statements indicate is that the skin is not just a package that wraps a human body, but an important part of a human body that processes information and performs vital functions. For example, the skin consists of several different nerve endings that detect cold and hot, as well as receptors that detect pain, touch, and pressure. Through the skin, we automatically assess the information from our environment. Based on the assessment, the skin controls the temperature of the body with perspiration. Also, the secretion called sebum has a very important bactericidal function that creates a barrier against germs in the environment.
As with the brain, there are still unknown aspects of skin functions. Some researchers conducted a study of the influence of the light on a visually disabled group of people to see how a circadian rhythm is maintained for them. Since they are not experiencing the sunlight visually, the researchers hypothesized that the change of the light must be detected through the skin.
Another interesting aspect of the skin is its emotional function. Since all body functions are processed through the brain, they are all attached to some level of emotional response. Some scientists are theorizing that emotional responses are elicited from the skin as well. We all know that caressing by someone we love makes us feel content. Uncomfortable silence between strangers in a room sometimes can be ‘felt’ without having any knowledge of the uncomfortable situation.
I recently read an article on this topic in which the authors made an interesting connection between the tattoo and piercing trend among youths and the lack of skin stimuli as children. I am thirty-seven years old now, and I remember being constantly covered with fresh wounds from playing rough as a child. According to those authors, the younger generation lives in a more sterile world nowadays, and parents are overly cautious about infections and excessive caressing in order to develop independence in their children. However, the skin needs to be stimulated just like any part of the body. When children lack the stimulation through the skin, they become attracted to the extreme version of it such as tattoo and piercing. There is no scientific evidence of this, but doesn’t this make sense to you intuitively?
When a fertilized egg develops into a fetus, nervous tissues (including the brain) and the skin are derived from the same structure called ectoderm. This explains why the skin is recently being referred to as the second brain. It is probably for this reason that most people feel calm during acupuncture treatments and also a major reason that needling the skin has a great impact on the functions of the entire body.