How Does Acupuncture Work?

Long gone are the days of mysticism surrounding the mechanism and use of Acupuncture. At least those days should be long gone. It seems that despite millions of success stories regarding the use of Acupuncture for fertility, pain relief, body regulation and even cancer symptom reduction – many people still hold this form of medical intervention shrouded in mystery.

This is partly due to the language barrier many of the old masters faced and also partly due to a lack of scientific research however things have changed with a strong research investment made by the current generation of practitioners.

This article will present two theroies on how acupuncture works. They are as follows:

  1. Biomagnetic Energy Stimulation
  2. Neuroscience Human Homunculus

Sorry to disappoint – no chicken sacrifices here, only science and research.

Biomagnetic Energy Stimulation

Acupuncturist work with Qi which is the Chinese word for energy. Qi is an invisible force that works alongside blood and it is often stated that blood nourishes Qi while Qi moves blood. Now from a biomedical perspective, the human body is made up primarily of water and we have electrical signals running through our body. Two different terms for the same idea.

Following on from the concept of Biomagnetic energy, the use of an acupuncture needle, which is made of metal, acts as a conductor to stimulate electrical currents to the area of insertion. As mentioned above, Qi and blood are intertwined so the stimulation of energy will also bring blood to an area. More blood means faster healing with the added bonus of blood carrying endorphins which are natural pain killers released by the body.

This is why the use of acupuncture can accelerate the healing process relating to injuries and also why it can be effective in providing pain relief for chronic injuries.

Neuroscience Human Homunculus

According to studies in neuroscience, every part of the human body is mapped out on the brain. This is known as the human homunculus and is believed to be the reason why people who have lost limbs can still feel them despite the physical structure no longer being present (known as phantom limb pain).

Acupuncture points are mapped out on the body (as our feature image shows with the acupuncture model) and as such, they would be mapped out on the brain. When needling a selected point, it actually triggers a signal change in the brain which creates the desired effect as intended by the acupuncturist. For example a needle in the ankle may assist with headaches because it triggers that change in the brain to tell the body that headaches are not beneficial to the body and to alleviate them.

In short, because the body is mapped on the brain – acupuncture can be used to assist the internal health of a patient as the selection and insertion at specific points can rewire (for lack of a better term) the brain in order to balance the body.

Researchers have viewed the brain activity of patients during many research trials and noted that different parts of the brain light up when acupuncture needles are inserted. Some patients feel the effects of the treatment immediately while others take around 24 hours to notice a change; regardless the brain signals had been altered.

Hopefully this article has shed light and uncovered the veil of mystery that has surrounded acupuncture. It may have origins over 3000 years old and though we honour the tradition, the medicine is moving towards a science and evidence based future.

Armed with this knowledge – why not seek out a practitioner today and see if there is anything they could assist you with? As always ensure your practitioner is registered  and ask as many questions as possible. Remember good health requires effort from both patient and practitioner.

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