Acupuncture has the unique ability to wake up the body systems and gently nudge them to function more efficiently. It has been researched extensively with favorable results, and found to be a safe treatment option for MD referral.
Overall findings show acupuncture to be:
- Has a Long History (3,000 years)
- Has Long-lasting effects
- Is Very Grounding
The understanding of acupuncture’s many mechanisms of action are beginning to emerge in the scientific and health communities. The findings show a multiplicity of effects as body systems respond, simultaneously or in a cascading fashion, to needle stimulation. What follows is a progression of subtle shifts that influence the chemical and electrical signaling to behave in a more coherent manner. In other words, acupuncture can help the body’s efforts to achieve homeostasis.
The Immune | Circulatory | Nervous Systems
Primarily, the act of needling sets off the body’s innate response to any micro-injury.
This cascade starts with the immune system, which goes into high alert when it senses the needles as in, “hey, that’s not me!” This cascade continues, by activating a a specific part of the immune system that reduces inflammation and increases immune-modulation activity locally.
When the immune system gets activated the circulatory system responds by dilating local blood vessels to allow immune-modulators to hop on board and get to the the area of the so-called “injury” faster. Add to this very early research findings of acupuncture analgesia, aka pain relief, because it compels endorphin release, which inhibits incoming pain signals.
Simultaneously, the nerves are stimulated by the increased blood flow, which increases nerve activation and growth. All of these are natural processes in our body, gently stimulated by the insertions of acupuncture needles.
The Fascia Connective Tissue
Another response that compels the body to respond to acupuncture is the simple mechanical force of the needle into the soft tissue. This increased pressure into the microfibers within the connective tissue sends a signal to the brain, which in turn instructs the body to produce more new cells of that type of material locally, at the site that was needled. This works especially to speed injury of any kind, with some of the quickest and most remarkable results being for joint pain, especially knees, elbows, shoulders and hands and feet.
The Brain | Endocrine | Nervous Systems
Perhaps the most interesting area where acupuncture has long lasting effects is the nervous system. Acupuncture affects the HPAA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis), the Limbic System, and the somatosensory system in a way that allows parasympathetic supremacy, something our bodies need, particularly with our busy 21st century lifestyles.
In broad terms, Eastern Medicine looks at the organs and body systems in relation to each other versus the Western model that looks at each system and organ in isolation. When it comes to the emotions, this research opens a promising area of discussion because it indicates proof of psychological change. Stay tuned: I have a feeling we’re going to find out more as different areas of the brain continue to be the subject of research.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of findings by the western science community. To find out more about acupuncture, visit the National Institutes of Health, The Society for Acupuncture Research, and do a search on Pubmed for both general information and by specific conditions. Before diving into research studies, you might want to look at my article on assessing research studies.
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