How does acupuncture work? It’s the most common question I hear from clients. I explain how it works both from a traditional point of view and a more scientific point of view.
From a traditional Chinese medical theory perspective, acupuncture works by opening up blocked energy channels called meridians. There is a saying in Chinese medicine, if the Qi is stagnant, pain and illness will follow. Qi (chi) is energy imbued with consciousness. It can be blocked by stress, poor diet, lack of exercise or sleep, repressed feelings, drugs, trauma, amongst other things.
From a scientific point of view, acupuncture works by activating our body’s own innate, self-healing mechanisms:
- Acupuncture increases blood flow and stimulates healing. The increased blood flow provides a higher level of nutrient and waste exchange, thereby speeding up the healing process.
- Acupuncture relieves pain and stress by stimulating the release of natural opiates. Our bodies make pain relieving opiates that are up to 200 times more powerful than morphine.
- Acupuncture profoundly reduces stress through its effects on the nervous system. Acupuncture helps to regulate the stress response by calming the ‘”fight or flight” stress response and increases the healing activity of the parasympathetic “rest and digest” response.
- Acupuncture can lift depression and ease anxiety. Acupuncture fundamentally re-calibrates the primary mood set-points in the brain that control feelings of well being and mood elevation.
- Acupuncture reduces inflammation and boosts immunity. Acupuncture reduces inflammatory substances like cortisol and prostaglandins. Inflammation has been linked to many chronic illnesses including hearth disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and to autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia. Acupuncture boosts immunity by increasing the level of T-cells which destroy harmful bacteria and viruses in the body.
Research studies continue to validate the many ways in which acupuncture can be helpful, from relieving chronic pain, migraines, menstrual/menopausal complaints and infertility, to alleviating allergies, insomnia and mood disorders, to dramatically reducing stress and tension.