Acupuncture – How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of relieving pain and treating disease. 

The procedure involves the insertion of needles into various parts of the body.
Acupuncture has been used to treat conditions such as: 

  • asthma, 
  • deafness, 
  • migraines, 
  • ulcers, 
  • eye diseases, and 
  • some types of mental illness.
According to Chinese philosophy, disease and pain occur because of an imbalance between two principal forces of nature—Yin and Yang. Acupuncture is thought to restore this balance. 
Many Chinese and other people believe acupuncture influences a life force that flows along 12 paired and 2 unpaired meridians, channels of energy that run longitudinally in the body.
Therapists called acupuncturists insert sharp needles at one or more of hundreds of specific points along the meridian. Insertion of the needles produces a sharp pinching feeling. This feeling quickly disappears and is replaced by an occasional tingling or a sense of numbness, heaviness, or soreness while the needles are in place.
The patient is conscious throughout treatment.

Scientists have proposed three major theories of how acupuncture works. 
One theory suggests that the meridians actually exist and connect the body’s organs in a special manner. According to this theory, acupuncture increases activity along the meridians and thus influences organ function. 
Scientists have also theorized that acupuncture works, at least in part, by increasing the brain’s production of natural painkillers called endorphins. These substances are morphine-like chemicals that influence the body’s awareness of pain. 
Scientists also theorize that acupuncture may work through the nervous system by triggering signals that interrupt pain messages sent to the brain. This hypothesis is known as the “gate theory” of pain.
Since the late 1950’s, Chinese doctors have performed surgery using acupuncture as a local anesthetic; the patient remains fully conscious during the operation. Acupuncture’s practitioners say the anesthetic is effective for complicated operations on the stomach, chest, neck, and head.
Acupuncture is frequently used in the Far East and Southeast Asia. In the United States and other Western countries, it has not yet been totally accepted as a form of medical treatment.