What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. The idea behind acupuncture is that stimulating these points with acupuncture needles or pressure relieves obstructions in the flow of energy, enabling the body to heal. The three primary effects of acupuncture are to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and restore homeostasis, the body’s ability to regulate its environment and maintain internal balance.
How does Acupuncture work?
All diseases involve a disturbance of homeostasis, and nearly all diseases involve some degree of pain and inflammation. In fact, research over the last several decades suggests that many serious conditions like heart disease previously thought to have other causes are primarily caused by chronic inflammation. If we understand that most diseases are characterized by pain, inflammation and disturbance of homeostasis, we begin to understand why acupuncture can be effective for so many conditions. Some identified mechanisms of acupuncture include:
- Acupuncture promotes blood flow. This is significant because everything the body needs to heal is in the blood, including oxygen, nutrients we absorb from food, immune substances, hormones, analgesics (painkillers) and anti-inflammatories. Restoring proper blood flow is vital to promoting and maintaining health blood flow and vasodilation in several regions of the body.
- Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms. Acupuncture creates “micro traumas” that stimulate the body’s ability to spontaneously heal injuries to the tissue through nervous, immune and endocrine system activation. As the body heals the micro traumas induced by acupuncture, it also heals any surrounding tissue damage left over from old injuries.
- Acupuncture releases natural painkillers. Inserting a needle sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released. Some of these substances are 10-200 times more potent than morphine.
- Acupuncture relaxes shortened muscles. This in turn releases pressure on joint structures and nerves, and promotes blood flow.
- Acupuncture reduces stress. This is perhaps the most important systemic effect of acupuncture. Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and signaling substance that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
What does acupuncture treat?
In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture.
- Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
- Biliary colic
- Dysentery, acute bacillary
- Dysmenorrhea, primary
- Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
- Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- Hypertension, essential
- Hypotension, primary
- Induction of labor
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Malposition of fetus, correction of
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
- Periarthritis of shoulder
- Postoperative pain
- Renal colic
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow