What is Acupuncture & how does it work?
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Acupuncture is a vital part of Chinese Medicine, a medical system that has been used for over 2000 years in Asia. The foundations of Chinese Medicine are built on the concepts of Qi 氣 (qi) and the Channel/Meridian system 經絡 (jīng luò).
What is Qi?
Pronounced like Cheese without the "se" this elusive word has been commonly translated as energy in the english language. How fitting as most people think that Cheese is the source of life. However according to ancient text the most accurate translation is in fact oxygen and nutrient. Fun fact the Chinese character, Qi consists of the air (oxygen) and rice (nutrients) radicals. Furthermore a more accurate description of the channel system in western medical terminology is in fact the vascular and nervous systems of the body. Qi circulates through the body via the channel systems which serve to provide blood, oxygen and nutrient supply to the internal organs, muscles, and surrounding tissues. Healthy function means healthy blood flow which allows oxygen, nutrient and immune factors to circulate throughout the body. Obstruction or problems with blood flow to a particular area of the body will consequently lead to a decrease in oxygen and nutrient supply as well as a decreased capability of the body to heal itself. Ultimately this decline in vascular function will lead to dysfunction or disease.
How does acupuncture work?
Chinese Medicine aims to correct the flow and balance of qi within the body through the various modalities including acupuncture. This involves the tapping and insertion of very fine needles into various points along the channel system in the body. The needles then gently correct and restore proper flow of qi which enable the body's innate healing system.
The complex mechanisms of how acupuncture work are still being discovered through modern day research and continue to baffle clinicians. However studies and clinical studies have suggested following theories
Acupuncture's positive effects on pain is through it's action on pain signalling at the interaction and integration site of neurons and ion channels. It is also seen to activate the central descending inhibition pathways and recruit a variety of biochemical analgesics including opioids, 5-HT, and NMDA. ¹
Through ultrasound and MRI imaging acupuncture has been seen to affect blood flow peripherally and within the brain.² ³
Acupuncture has effects on the neuro endocrine system. ⁴ ⁵
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
There is an ongoing effort for scientists to understand the specific mechanisms.
However I have personally seen and continue to see the overwhelming positive effects of acupuncture in my patients. Individuals receiving treatment have experienced improvements in digestion, decrease in pain and inflammation, stress relief, rebalancing of hormones and the improvement of general well being.
In my clinic I have seen improvements with
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Ankle and wrist pain
- Painful period
- Fertility issues
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Osteo arthritis
If you identify with some of the conditions listed above or if you are curious to see whether acupuncture can improve your condition, book in a free health assessment and see how I can help you.
1. Chen, S., Wang, S., Rong, P., Wang, J., Qiao, L., Feng, X., … Zhang, J. (2014). Acupuncture for visceral pain: neural substrates and potential mechanisms. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 609594. doi:10.1155/2014/609594
2. Parrish, T. B., Schaeffer, A., Catanese, M., & Rogel, M. J. (2005). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of real and sham acupuncture. Noninvasively measuring cortical activation from acupuncture. IEEE engineering in medicine and biology magazine : the quarterly magazine of the Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society, 24(2), 35–40.
3. Takayama, S., Watanabe, M., Kusuyama, H., Nagase, S., Seki, T., Nakazawa, T., & Yaegashi, N. (2012). Evaluation of the effects of acupuncture on blood flow in humans with ultrasound color Doppler imaging. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 513638. doi:10.1155/2012/513638
4. Wang S.J. et al “Acupuncture Relieves the Excessive Excitation of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Cortex Axis Function and Correlates with the Regulatory Mechanism of GR, CRH, and ACTHR” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2014, Article ID 495379
5. Ding S.S. et al “Acupuncture modulates the neuro–endocrine–immune network” QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Volume 107, Issue 5, 1 May 2014, Pages 341–345