Acupuncture… How does it work?
Acupuncture is a major part of Oriental Medicine, a system of health care based on the principal of balancing energy flow in the body to correct physiological function.
Acupuncture can be used to treat both musculoskeletal conditions, as well as a wide variety of internal or systemic conditions.
Conditions that can benefit from acupuncture
- Back pain
- Shoulder and elbow pain
- Sciatica and low back pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Allergy/sinus trouble
- Female health concerns, pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms
- Smoking cessation or addictions in general
- Recurrent pain
- Recurrent colds, flu, immune support
- High blood pressure
- Improved healing of wounds and injuries
The World Health Organization Inter-Regional Seminar drew up the following provisional list of diseases that lend themselves to acupuncture treatment
(Source: Bannerman R H 1979 Acupuncture: the WHO View. World Health, December, pgs. 27-28
- Upper Respiratory system
- Sinusitis and nasal congestion
- Common Cold and runny nose
- Acute Tonsillitis
- Respiratory System
- Acute Bronchitis
- Bronchial Asthma
- Disorders of the Mouth
- Toothache (post-extraction pain)
- Sore throat
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Esophageal and stomach spasm which may cause reflux
- Stomach pain
- Ulcer pain
- Acute and chronic colitis
- Acute bacillary dysentery
- Neurological and Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Headache and Migraine
- Facial pain
- Facial Palsy (early stage, i.e., within three to six months)
- Paralysis (following a stroke)
- Peripheral Neuropathies
- Meniere’s Disease
- Intercostal Neuralgia – rib and thorax pain
- Cervicobrachial Syndrome
- Frozen Shoulder
- Tennis Elbow
- Low Back Pain
Traditional Acupuncture Theory
The traditional explanation for the effects of acupuncture is rooted in the belief that there are channels of energy that run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy pathways or meridians are closely linked with the 12 primary organs of the body. Many of these you will recognize, such as the liver, large intestine, gall bladder, and heart meridians. An obstruction in the movement of energy acts like a valve being shut off causing energy to back up into other areas. Pain, illness or disease can be caused by diminished energy flow to a region or by excess energy in a channel caused by a blockage in another channel.
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points. Acupuncture therapy is based on the ideas and teachings of traditional Chinese medicine, in which one’s health and ability to heal from injury is largely based energy, or Qi (pronounced Chi), within the body.
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. These energy pathways or meridians are closely linked with the 12 primary organs of the body. Many of these you will recognize, such as the liver, large intestine, gall bladder, and heart meridians. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers acts like a dam causing energy to backs up into other areas. Pain, illness or disease can be caused by diminished energy flow to a region or by excess energy in a channel caused by a blockage in another channel. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The more modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.