What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an effective form of medical treatment that has evolved into a complete holistic health care system. Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have used this noninvasive treatment method to help millions of people become well and stay well.
Acupuncture promotes natural healing. It can enhance recuperative power and immunity, support physical and emotional health, and improve overall function and well-being. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems.
When an acupuncturist gently taps a needle into the surface of the skin, the body’s natural responses investigate this “micro-trauma” by sending an inflammatory immune response to the tissues by increasing blood cell counts and activating neurotransmitters (among other immune system elements). Once the body has recognized that there is no “poison” or damage to the tissues, only a sterile steel needle, it then sends an anti-inflammatory response to bring the body back to homeostasis. Endorphins and enkephalins are released to stop pain and increase a feeling of well-being.
Current Theories On The Mechanism of Acupuncture:
Neurotransmitter Theory: Acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive system.
Autonomic Nervous System Theory: Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylcholine and several types of opioids, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system, and reducing pain.
Vascular-interstitial Theory: Acupuncture effects the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues.
Blood Chemistry Theory: Acupuncture affects the blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis.
Gate Control Theory: Acupuncture activates non-nociceptive receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn, “gating out” painful stimuli.
When imbalances arise in the body, they are seen as disruptions in the functions of the circulation of Qi (electrical circulation/energy), fluids, nutrients, and blood. Physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, overexertion, seasonal changes, diet, accidents or excessive activity can lead to a blockage or imbalance of this circulation. An acupuncturist is able to use very fine needles inserted into specific nodes on the body to unblock imbalances in the flow of this circulation and bring the body back to homeostasis allowing the bodies natural healing abilities to take over.
Most health problems are caused by imbalances in the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on fixing these imbalances so the body can heal itself. TCM does not actually do the healing – it brings things into balance so natural healing mechanisms can take over.
Western medicine often focuses on treating symptoms, instead of helping the body heal itself. Most Western drugs are intended to treat symptoms and not cure.
Western and Eastern medicine theories are not necessarily opposed – they are complimentary. Each has its place.
What does an Acupuncturist do?
During the initial exam a full health history is taken. Questions are asked regarding health, symptoms and lifestyle. An appropriate physical exam is conducted, including pulse and tongue diagnosis.
Gathering this information enables the practitioner to effectively diagnose and detect any specific imbalances that may have contributed to a person’s health problems. The practitioner can then create a well-structured treatment plan.
Once the imbalances are detected, an acupuncturist will place fine, sterile needles at specific acupoints along meridian pathways. This safe and painless insertion of the needles can move circulation where it has become unbalanced. Once this is done, blood, oxygen, fluids, and nutrients can freely circulate throughout the body, providing adequate nourishment to cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles. This can eliminate pain and restore balance and harmony, as well as the body’s ability to heal itself—ultimately leading to optimal health and well-being.