How does Acupuncture work?

 

Acupuncture was developed on the understanding that there are twelve main channels, or "regular meridians" running vertically across and throughout the human body connecting the internal organs. It is a tenet of acupuncture that Qi flows along these meridian lines. Qi is somewhat equivalent to the western idea of vitality or life-force.

The operating philosophy of traditional acupuncture is that disease is caused by interrupted energy flow at specific points on the body's surface. Acupuncture thus involves the insertion of a needle(s) at the affected point(s) in order to stimulate Qi flow and harmonize energy flow in the body.

How does traditional acupuncture translate into our modern medical understanding? Researchers are examining through Western mechanisms how acupuncture brings about physiological change.

Scientific research into acupuncture in the last 25 years has brought a general advance in the understanding of neurophysiologic & neuropharmacologic pain relief mechanisms as they relate to acupuncture (the endorphin theory, the gate theory, and DNIC (diffuse noxious inhibitory control) theory). Evidence indicates that acupuncture stimulates the release of brain chemicals such as endorphins that function to relieve pain. Research shows that acupuncture strengthens the immune system, improves circulation, decreases muscle tightness, and increases joint flexibility.

Does Acupuncture hurt?
 
Acupuncture needles are 25-50 times thinner than a hypodermic needle. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. There is little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles.

While some people feel nothing at all; others experience a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin that can be followed by a mild sensation of cramping, tingling, numbness, traveling warmth, or heaviness. The needles are left in place for twenty to forty minutes. Most people find the experience extremely relaxing and uplifting and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.

That being said, some conditions will respond better to a thicker gauge acupuncture needle.  It is common to experience soreness during and after an acupuncture treatment.  It is important to let your acupuncturist know immediately so that they can make you more comfortable.  If you are sensitive to acupuncture or ‘needle-phobic’ your acupuncturist can use thinner needles and be gentler.  Be sure to speak up and let the practitioner know how you are feeling!

 

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