Most people know that Acupuncture relieves pain, reduces inflammation and restores homeostasis (balance).
There are two main ways of explaining how acupuncture works.
1. Increased blood flow
2. Stimulation of the nervous system
Acupuncture works by improving the flow of oxygen, nutrients and blood through specific networks of blood vessels to nourish every cell of our body. In Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the number one cause of disease is blood stagnation (a lack of proper blood circulation). When there is a problem with blood flow to any particular area of the body, that area can’t function properly.
As Acupuncture causes your blood vessels to dilate and increases blood flow, it relieves pain, improves organ function and prevents aging.
Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, by activating nociceptor sensory nerves, and proprioceptor fibers that travel from the skin to the spine and into the brain. For example, Acupuncture improves the nerve signal to your brain and forces your brain to release opioids (natural painkillers) to shut off the pain signal and eliminate pain.
Acupuncture works by treating the 5 main factors that influence your health:
1. Flow of oxygen/function of your body
2. Flow of blood in your body
3. Health of your blood vessels
4. Health of your organs
5. Health of your nervous system
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself! Your body does the majority of healing but sometimes it needs help. Acupuncture does wonders in focusing the direction of the blood flow to a certain area in order to speed up the healing. After all, the body won’t heal without proper blood flow.
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.
For example if blood flow is diminished by as little as 3% in the breast area cancer may develop.
Blood flow decreases as we age and can be impacted by trauma, injuries and certain diseases. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow and vasodilation in several regions of the body.
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms.
When the acupuncture needle penetrates the skin, the body sees it as a form of an injury (micro trauma). The body responds by stimulating blood flow to the area of micro trauma. This allows the body 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 reduces both the intensity and perception of chronic pain.
It does this through a process called “descending control normalization”, which involves the serotonergic nervous system
Acupuncture relaxes shortened muscles.
This 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. You’ve probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response that is governed by the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system has been called the “rest-and-digest” or “calm-and-connect” system, and in many ways is the opposite of the sympathetic system. Recent research has implicated impaired parasympathetic function in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Acupuncture shifts the body from a sympathetic state (stressed) to a parasympathetic state (relaxed).