Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a Live Dissection at St. Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. (Thanks to the Osteopathic Council who snuck me in as an honorary Osteopath for the day!) I was worried they might suss me out with my poor anatomy knowledge (it’s been 10 years since I studied that stuff) but i’m pleased to say I did not let the acupuncture community down. Even shouted out a couple of the answers… not because I wanted to show off, just because I got overly excited!
This was a Pro Dissection, which means that the bodies had already been dissected to different stages so we were not let loose with scalpels. But we were encouraged to get stuck in, moving the limbs to see how the tendons interact, feeling the different textures of the tissues and bones and noticing where and how they insert to the rest of the skeleton. For someone who had never been to a dissection or even see a dead body before I was a little nervous at how I’d react. I did have a bit of a moment when we got to the dissected brains where I thought I might faint, but there was a lack of strong looking osteopaths that I thought might be able to catch me, so I managed to pull myself together.
You might wonder why an acupuncturist would be interested in going along to this kind of training and a lot of my acu buddies were asking exactly that! But to me, the human body is so fascinating, so intricate, that to be given the chance to literally see it in the flesh is one I just couldn’t miss out on.
The most interesting part for me was to actually see and handle fascia. Fascia is a band of connective tissues that wrap around organs and muscles to protect them. For acupuncturists, fascia is particularly important as acupuncture channels lie between the skin and the fascia, therefore, acupuncture needles need to penetrate to the level of the fascia. I was able to get an idea of the different depths where the fascia sits depending on which part of the body we were looking at, but the really remarkable part was just how impenetrable fascia would be to a average gauge acupuncture needle. As acupuncturists, we really get a sense of how the fascia feels under our fingertips when the needle gets to the correct depth, but it really showed me how safe the practice of acupuncture is, as fascia is just far too thick and strong for the average needle to get through, meaning that organs and vital tissues are protected. The body really is an amazing thing!
Another good thing to take away from the session is that I managed to flummox a final year med student, when he asked how we might treat plantar fasciitis, I told him I would put needles in the hand. When he pointed out it was a foot problem I was able to politely tell him that I knew that, but I would still put needles in the hand. It might not sound that funny to you but I was smiling! You see, the body has an amazing network system whereby the fascia interconnects with different areas around the body, this is essentially how acupuncture channels interconnect. So by needling an area which is not where the person is experiencing pain, you can directly affect the painful area. It will be instant, because the body carries signals at an incredible pace. And if the acupuncturist has done their job properly it will be cured, because the body has the unique ability to mend itself.
So all in all, a great day out… I came away from the hospital feeling so lucky that my work allows me to do some pretty cool stuff. I also left feeling hungry, because apparently formaldehyde will do that to a person!
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac