How Does Acupuncture Heal Your Body?
Many studies have documented acupuncture’s effects on the body. Researchers have proposed several processes to explain acupuncture’s effects, primarily on pain.
In general, acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, which, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either alter the experience of pain or release other chemicals that influence the body’s self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Attention has been focused on the following theories to further explain how acupuncture affects the body:
Conduction of electromagnetic signals:
Evidence suggests that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulating these specific points enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at greater-than-normal rates. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing bio-chemicals, such as endorphins, or release immune system cells to specific body sites.
Activation of the body’s natural opioid system:
Considerable research supports the claim that acupuncture releases opioids, synthetic or naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain that may reduce pain or induce sleep. These chemicals may explain acupuncture’s pain-relieving and relaxation effects.
Stimulation of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland:
Joined at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for many body functions. The hypothalamus activates and controls part of the nervous system, the endocrine processes, and many bodily functions, such as sleep, regulation of temperature, and appetite. The pituitary gland supplies some of the body’s needed hormones. Stimulation of these glands can result in a broad spectrum of effects on various body systems.
Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones:
Studies suggest that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry in a positive way. This is accomplished by changing the release of neurotransmitters (biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses) and neurohormones (naturally-occurring chemical substances that can change the structure or function, or impact the activity of, a body organ).
National Institutes of Health’s Perspective on Acupuncture:
Clinical studies presented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy, as well as for dental pain after surgery.
The NIH also has found that acupuncture is useful by itself, or in combination with conventional therapies, to treat addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, and to assist in stroke rehabilitation.
What Conditions Benefit from Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine According to The World Health Organization?
Many North Americans seek acupuncture treatment for relief of chronic pain, such as arthritis or low back pain for which is has great success in treating. Acupuncture also has expanded uses in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists conditions that may benefit from acupuncture. These conditions include the following:
Muscle pain and weakness
Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
Blood pressure regulation
Immune system tonification
Can Acupuncture Ease the Symptoms of Menopause?
Cohen SM, Rousseau ME, Carey BL.
University of Pittsburgh, 440 Victoria Bldg, 3500 Victoria St, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.
In a randomized, 2-group clinical study, acupuncture was used for the relief of menopausal hot flushes, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. The experimental acupuncture treatment consisted of specific acupuncture body points related to menopausal symptoms. The comparison acupuncture treatment consisted of a treatment designated as a general tonic specifically designed to benefit the flow of Qi (energy). Results from the experimental acupuncture treatment group showed a decrease in mean monthly hot flush severity for site-specific acupuncture. The comparison acupuncture treatment group had no significant change in severity from baseline over the treatment phase. Sleep disturbances in the experimental acupuncture treatment group declined over the study. Mood changes in both the experimental acupuncture treatment group and the comparison acupuncture treatment group showed a significant difference between the baseline and the third month of the study. Acupuncture using menopausal-specific sites holds promise for non-hormonal relief of hot flushes and sleep disturbances.