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.
The Traditional Explanation:
Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. It has a very positive model of good health and function, and looks at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance.
During training at acupuncture college we are taught that when Qi flows freely, there is no pain; when Qi is obstructed, there is pain. This concept requires us to accept that the concept of Qi is more than just “energy,” to which it is sometimes likened. It could be described as a life-force perhaps, but I think it needs to be accepted that it encompasses both the physical and the emotional/spiritual.
The overall aim of acupuncture treatment, then, is to restore the body’s equilibrium of the physical, emotional and mental.
What Can Obstruct Our Qi?
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.”
More Western Explanations
Many research studies aim to explain acupuncture’s undoubted effectiveness. Here are some of the main prevailing theories that might help answer that question, how does acupuncture work?
The Endorphin Theory: 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 in cerebrospinal fluid after patients underwent acupuncture treatments.
This finding may help explain some of the analgesic effects seen with acupuncture therapy.
The Local Injury Theory: your body interprets the insertion of the fine acupuncture needles as an “injury.” The natural healing process is set up – increased circulation, increased collagen production
The Gate Control Theory: this theory postulates that specific nerve fibers transmit a pain signal to the brain via the spinal cord, and input of other nerve fibers can inhibit the pain signal transmission.
Acupuncture stimulates inhibitory nerve fibers for a short period, thus reducing transmission of the pain signal to the brain.
Acupuncture generates a competing stimulus and effectively interrupts the neurotransmitters of the pain signals from reaching the brain. This results in the patient never getting the pain signal and therefore never getting the pain. It’s a bit like stubbing your toe when you already have a very painful knee – for a short time you don’t get the pain from the knee!
The Neurotransmitter Theory: 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.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- be fed up of feeling tired, stressed out, anxious;
- have low mood, be struggling to sleep or switch off your mind;
- experience menopausal symptoms, menstrual irregularity/pain, fertility issues or be embarking on fertility treatment;
- struggle with bloating or other digestive issues;
- have a musculoskeletal condition such as sciatica, back pain, tendonitis or frozen shoulder.
- and so on and so on…….
I look forward to sharing with you the secret that acupuncture is a therapy that can help get you back on track. I focus on you and your unique symptoms to develop an individualised treatment program. For example, I would probably treat five people a week with sciatica and no two treatments would be identical. Acupuncture addresses not just the symptom but also the root cause to help prevent or reduce recurrence of symptoms.
Are you thinking of trying acupuncture? If so then please get in touch:
Get in touch with Eileen here, by phone, by email or by booking a free 15 minute phone consultation:
Call on 07773332553