How Does Acupuncture Work?
It’s a Very Valid Question
Many of my new clients ask “how does acupuncture work?” It’s a very valid question.
It is difficult to explain this in the way we are taught at acupuncture college.
Some of the answer would use unfamiliar language and often some metaphorical explanations. For example, in the West we are not familiar or comfortable with the concept of Qi (pronounced chee) or channels.
Traditional acupuncturists believe that the underlying principle of treatment is that illness and pain occur when the body’s qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely. There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury are among the most common. We are all familiar with knotted shoulders, bloated stomachs, stiff necks, feelings of frustration – these are some relatable examples of what we mean by “stuck energy or qi.”
A More Western Explanation
There are several ways that acupuncture can influence the body systems.
- In the 1970s researchers isolated endogenous endorphins, our body’s natural painkiller, in the central nervous system. Clinical studies reported that inserting acupuncture needles into specific acupuncture points triggered the production of endorphins. This finding may help explain some of the analgesic/pain-relieving effects seen with acupuncture therapy.
- Your body interprets the insertion of the fine acupuncture needles as an “injury.” But really, the needles are so ultrafine that there is no actual injury. The natural healing process is, however, set up – increased circulation, increased collagen production – and things get better more quickly.
- Another theory can best be understood by considering this scenario: if you stub your toe (ouch!!) when you already have a very painful knee, for a short time you don’t get the pain from the knee! There is a sort of competition for attention from the knee and the toe: acupuncture can reduce the transmission of pain signals to the brain for a short period.
- It seems that acupuncture may modulate certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenalin. The neurotransmitter model suggests that acupuncture can be beneficial for treatment of depression, anxiety, and addiction.
“Three Underlying Causes of Pain”
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