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J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Dec;13(10):1059-70. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0524.

Acupuncture de qi, from qualitative history to quantitative measurement.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


De qi is an important traditional acupuncture term used to describe the connection between acupuncture needles and the energy pathways of the body. The concept is discussed in the earliest Chinese medical texts, but details of de qi phenomenon, which may include the acupuncturist's and/or the patient's experiences, were only fully described in the recent hundred years. In this paper, we will trace de qi historically as an evolving concept, and review the literature assessing acupuncture needle sensations, and the relationship between acupuncture-induced de qi and therapeutic effect. Thereafter, we will introduce the MGH Acupuncture Sensation Scale (MASS), a rubric designed to measure sensations evoked by acupuncture stimulation as perceived by the patient alone, and discuss some alternative statistical methods for analyzing the results of this questionnaire. We believe widespread use of this scale, or others like it, and investigations of the correlations between de qi and therapeutic effect will lead to greater precision in acupuncture research and enhance our understanding of acupuncture treatment.

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