By Jing Liu, OMD, LAc, PhD and Kun Liu, LAc
To the acupuncture community, Dr. Shi Xue-Min is known as a distinguished acupuncturist and
academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a supervisor of doctoral candidates in China. Dr.
Shi Xue-Min is particularly known for his creation of the stroke acupuncture technique Xing Nao Kai Qiao
(XNKQ), which is translated as “activating the brain and opening the orifices.” During the Chinese
Revolution, he was among a few who survived in his position. After establishing The First Teaching
Hospital University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Tianjin, China, Dr. Shi’s leadership allowed the
hospital to grow to an astounding degree, from 200 beds to 2,000 beds.
Dr. Shi has nearly 50 years of experience in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is the recipient of
numerous awards and has published extensively. He has been the past recipient of 15 awards and two
patents on the state, ministerial and municipal levels. He also published 12 major works, more than 30
theses, and authored more than 40 books. The work he has done has greatly encouraged many doctors to
conduct research on the effects of acupuncture and meridians.
As most know, Chinese acupuncture has about 5,000 years of history. Dr. Shi Xue-min’s theory and
techniques known as “Xing Nao Kai Qiao” (XNKQ), is a very effective method of acupuncture for the
treatment of stroke. Dr. Shi inherited traditional Chinese medicine, but he also developed the modern
concept of quantitative needling manipulation. He was the first doctor in the world to propose the theory of
quantitative needling manipulation. He used scientific experimental methods and studied the relationship
between clinical effects and needling techniques, including needle retention time, rotation angle and
frequency. Moreover, through the efforts of more than 100 of his PhD students, the study of XNKQ has
extended even into research at the DNA level. Dr. Shi’s concept of quantitative needling manipulation is
more valuable than XNKQ alone, and it greatly contributes to the development of acupuncture and research.
Thus, Dr. Shi is often referred to as “China’s Treasure.”
Starting from 1968, Dr. Shi has traveled to countries all over the world to treat patients and to teach doctors about his XKNQ method of
treating stroke patients. He has visited countries such as are Algeria, Germany, Japan, Mexico, France, Italy,
and the United States, and he has flown enough miles to circle the Earth about 38 times. Nowadays, even in
his seventies, he still flies around the world to spread the word about Traditional Chinese Medicine and his
XNKQ method to treat stroke patients.
Last year, Dr. Shi was featured in the acclaimed documentary film 9,000 Needles. The film illustrated the
treatment of severe stroke patients by Dr. Shi and his team.
What is Xing Nao Kai Qiao?
The Xing Nao Kai Qiao (XNKQ) method was created by Dr. Shi in 1972, illustrating a new approach to the
treatment and rehabilitation of stroke patients. As a result of nearly 40 years of working with stroke patients,
the “XNKQ” method has developed into a diagnostic and treatment system.
Watch Part 2 of 3 of our exclusive interview with Dr. Shi Xue-Min here.
According to the World Health Organization, stroke is the third leading cause of death in most countries of
the world, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer. By the year 2030, it is expected to be the leading
cause of death. In the United States, each year 750,000 individuals suffer a stroke and 150,000 people die
from stroke. Each year in China, 5-6 million people suffer from stroke and approximately 1.5 million people
die from stroke. Stroke affects three times as many women as breast cancer, and it is an important cause of
prolonged disability. Survivors of strokes are often unable to return to work. The economic, social and
psychological costs of stroke are enormous. In the U.S., each ischemic stroke costs an average of $140,000,
according to recent reports.
The theoretical TCM basis of the XNKQ method was based on “spirit-arousing” and “spirit-regulating.” Dr.
Shi put forward a new conception of the etiology and pathogenesis of stroke, based on a deep understanding
the theory of “spirit” in TCM combined with the anatomy and physiology of the brain in biomedicine. Dr.
Shi posited that fire, phlegm, blood (stasis), and deficiency carried upwards by wind (internal wind)
disturbed the lucid orifices and spirit, leading to closure of the orifices and concealment of the spirit, which
in turn caused the spirit to fail to guide the qi, thus stroke occurred.
The XNKQ acupuncture method for treating apoplexy/stroke explained the main pathological keys to
etiology, pathogenesis, disease location, and manifestations, and created scientific standards of points
selection and acupuncture manipulation. A large amount of clinical practice has confirmed that the treatment
method is effective, easy, convenient and practical with a strong scientific standard. The XNKQ method is
based on activating and regulating the spirit, restoring qi and spirit, regulating yin-yang and qi-blood,
calming, dredging the meridians and supplementing the marrow.
The principles of traditional acupuncture treatment in stroke patients include “calming liver-yang and
smoothing liver wind” in the acute period. “Smoothing meridians” is the main principle in stable cases and
the sequela period. The points chosen were based on the theories of “using three yang meridians to treat
wind” and “using Yang-Ming meridians to treat apoplexy.” A comparison of clinical effects and research
shows that the traditional acupuncture treatment for stroke patients has a definite effect in stabilizing the
disease and improving physical function. However, to improve cerebral circulation and protect the brain
cells, the changes in brain function are not obvious. Dr. Shi’s XNKQ mainly uses Yin meridians and the Du
meridian to activate the brain and open the orifices and nourish the liver and kidney; smoothing the
meridians is supplementary.
The theory of quantitative acupuncture manipulation put forward first by Dr. Shi determines a new
definition and quantitative manipulation for reinforcing and reducing methods of needle manipulation.
Particular attention is given to twirling and rotating, including four important factors. The direction of
applied force is an important factor in determining reinforcing vs. reducing technique. The reinforcing or
reducing nature of twirling and rotating is directly related to the applied force, the best duration of
reinforcing or reducing manipulation based on twirling and rotating the needle is 1-3 minutes for each point.
Finally, the best interval between two sessions of acupuncture is three-to-six hours, allowing acupuncture
therapy to be more reproducible, standardized, and controlled.
Additionally, Dr. Shi investigated the most commonly used methods of manipulation for reinforcing and
reducing in terms of frequency, range, and direction of applied force. His research on quantification of
reinforcing and reducing manipulation techniques resulted in two significant definitions: 1) The twelve
channels are positioned with the Ren and Du channels in the center; in regard to the right or left direction of
needle rotation, directing the rotation towards the heart is reinforcing and directing the rotation away from
the heart is reducing. 2) Rotating the needles within a narrow range with light force is reinforcing; the force
is light and the range of rotation is narrow, but the frequency is high, the needles are rotated under 90
degrees and the frequency of rotation reaches 120 times per-minute. By contrast, a wide angle of rotation,
increased force, and relatively less frequent rotation is reducing; the angle of rotation is greater than 180
degrees and the frequency is approximately 50-60 times per minute.
The manipulation and composition of the XNKQ needling method
Photo Courtesy of Seiko Maramba One of the main reasons for the
efficacy of the XNKQ method lies in its strict application of principles, in particular its special
specifications in terms of manipulation technique. The principle points in clinical use are the most important
because they free and regulate the spirit; this emphasis is one of the most important differences between the
XNKQ method and traditional acupuncture.
The principle points of the XNKQ method include Du 26, P 6, Sp 6, Lu 5, Ht 1, and UB 40. Du 26 is a point
that was highly regarded historically for emergency situations; it can directly excite and activate the
restrained state of the brain cells. It has a special characteristic of increasing the circulation of the carotid
artery, which helps the dynamics of blood circulation and improves cerebral circulation. Thus, the use of
this point with sparrow pecking stimulation can open the orifices, arouse the original spirit, and regulate the
bowels and viscera. P 6 is the luo point of the pericardium channel, it can benefit stroke patients by
improving cardiac output and oxygen supply while calming the heart, regulating the blood, and quieting the
spirit. Sp 6 supplements the three yin channels, boosts marrow, regulates qi and blood, and quiets the spirit.
Ht 1, Lu 5 and UB 40 can dredge the channels, move qi and blood, and improve the function of the limbs.
Within these points, Du 26 is the chief, P 6 and Sp 6 are ministers, and Ht 1, Lu 5, and UB 40 are assistants
and couriers; together they regulate and brighten the original spirit, balance yin and yang, regulate qi and
blood, and free the channels. One treatment course constitutes 10 days of twice daily treatments; 3-5
treatment courses are used continuously.
Needle Manipulation Techniques Used in XNKQ
The efficacy of XNKQ is closely related to its strict attention to techniques of needle manipulation. One of
the key differences between XNKQ and traditional acupuncture methods is the importance placed upon
principle points that arouse the spirit and open the orifices in order to achieve the essential effect of
regulating and freeing the original spirit.
The principle points used in XNKQ are DU-26 (ren2 zhong1), PC 6 (nei4 guan1), SP 6 (san1 yin1 jiao1),
HT 1 (ji2 quan2), LU 5 (chi3 ze2), and BL 40 (wei3 zhong1). Ancient doctors greatly valued DU-26 (ren2
zhong1) as an important point to arouse the brain in emergency situations; it has an excitatory effect on the
nervous system and it has an idiosyncratic effect of increasing blood flow in the carotid artery while
improving cerebral circulation. Using sparrow pecking technique to drain DU-26 (ren2 zhong1) opens the
orifices, arouses the original spirit, and regulates the bowels and viscera.
PC 6 (nei4 guan1) is the luo-connecting point of the pericardium channel; it is traditionally said to quiet the heart, regulate the
blood, and calm the spirit, and it improves the cardiac output of stroke patients and improves the supply of
oxygen to the brain. SP 6 (san1 yin1 jiao1) supplements the three yin channels of the leg and boosts marrow
while regulating qi and blood and calming the spirit. HT 1 (ji2 quan2), LU 5 (chi3 ze2), and BL 40 (wei3
zhong1) smooth the channels and network vessels while moving qi and blood to improve movement of the
DU-26 (ren2 zhong1) is regarded as the sovereign point in the prescription, while PC 6 (nei4 guan1) and SP
6 (san1 yin1 jiao1) are ministers. HT 1 (ji2 quan2), LU 5 (chi3 ze2), and BL 40 (wei3 zhong1) are assistants
and couriers. This combination regulates the original spirit and brings out brightness. It creates yin-yang
balance and rectifies qi and blood to harmonize the thoroughfare (chong) vessel. By freeing the channels, it
promotes uninhibited movement. Treatment is given twice per day for 10 days per treatment course, and
three-to-five continuous courses of treatment are recommended.
The XNKQ method of needling has a clear effect in stroke patients, with pronounced positive effects in
multiple systems. Dr. Shi has studied its clinical effects for over 30 years in numerous systems involving
many different disciplines of treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation. He has contributed standards of
integration and management for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke, which has been called a unique
“chapter on the treatment methods of Master Shi.” It has been shown to reduce mortality and enhance
rehabilitation in stroke patients, and is widely regarded as an excellent method of treatment.
Another key aspect of the XNKQ method is the emphasis on manipulation techniques for the principle
points. Each point has clear specifications on direction, depth, and hand techniques, which have been
assessed with numerous scientific studies. Thus, the needling method is based on established science and
standards that enhance clinical results.
After Dr. Shi published his work with the XNKQ needling method, a clinical system of stroke diagnosis and
treatment was developed. Altogether, more than two million stroke patients have been treated with this
system of acupuncture therapy. In recent years, 9,005 patients with stroke at various different stages were
assessed based on strict, harmonized diagnostic standards and treated principally with the XNKQ method.
Based on their specific condition, patients utilized drug therapies including medication for hypertension,
infections, and other concerns based on internationally accepted standards of care. Marked results were seen
in 95-98 percent of patients with a variety of different stages and conditions, including acute stages,
hemorrhagic stroke, and recovery stages.
Over the past 40 years, Dr. Shi’s humble yet highly innovative work has truly entered the history books.
Dr. Jing Liu, OMD, LA., PhD, China, has almost 11 years of schooling in Western Medicine and
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).Upon completion of her initial residency in the 1980’s, she was
chosen for her unique talent and abilities and was trained to work on high government officials in China.
She then completed a 3 year Ph.D. program under Dr. Shi Xue Min who is the Father of Acupuncture and
the world’s #1 TCM doctor. Dr. Shi has called Dr. Liu “The Master of the Masters.” Dr. Liu has studied
under many top doctors in their respective specialites in both Eastern and Western medicine for the last 20
years and continues her education in China every year. Dr. Liu’s extensive knowledge is well rounded and
her areas of expertise encompass the treatment of common illness, pain management, cancer support, men
and women’s health issues as well as neuropathy.
Kun Liu is a licensed acupuncturist in the State of Arizona and in the State of California. She is an active
licensed Traditional Chinese Doctor in China as well. Kun Liu was born in a traditional Chinese medical
family and raised in China. She is the third generation in her family to practice acupuncture and herbal
medicine. She has an ideal goal that she wants to treat all of her patients both physically and
psychologically. After she finished her 5 years of training in acupuncture to receive her Bachelor’s degree in
China from Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, she came to the U.S. to get her Master’s
degree in Psychology from California State University. Kun Liu has experience in treating stroke and stroke
sequela patients and was trained in Dr. Shi Xue-Min’s University and Hospital, which is the Tianjin
University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and No.1 Teaching Hospital of Tianjin University of TCM. She
is proficient at treating insomnia and depression patients and has had great success in treating pain
problems, such as headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain.
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