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Friday, July 21, 2006

How Does Acupuncture Work

According to the principles of TCM, qi flows through the body via 14 primary meridians or channels. To strengthen the flow of qi,or remove blockages in the meridians, an acupuncturist inserts a number of tiny, sterile, flexible needles just under the skin at certain specific points (called acupoints) along the channels. There are four to five hundred named acupoints along the meridians, some of which are associated with specific internal organs or organ systems. If you are suffering from nausea, for example, needles might be inserted into acupoints on your wrist, while a vision problem might be treated with needles in the foot. (Additional ear, scalp, and hand points are also commonly used by some practitioners.) Acupuncture practitioners believe that the therapy stimulates the body's internal regulatory system and nurtures a natural healing response.
Although Western science has neither proven nor accepted the notion of qi, a large body of evidence is accumulating indicating that acupuncture leads to real physiologic changes in the body. Numerous studies have shown, for example, that inserting needles into the skin stimulates nerves in the underlying muscles. This stimulation, researchers feel, sends impulses up the spinal cord to a relatively primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system, as well as to the midbrain and the pituitary gland. Somehow that signaling leads to the release of endorphins and monoamines, chemicals that block pain signals in the spinal chord and brain.
Historically, acupuncture points were believed to be holes that allow entry into channels. These holes provide us gateways to influence, redirect, increase, or decrease body's vital substance, qi, thus correcting many of the imbalances. Many studies and research were directed since to understand the mechanism of acupuncture.
Effects of AcupunctureAcupuncture has been shown to stimulate the immune system. It also has affects the circulation, blood pressure, rhythm and stroke volume of the heart, secretion of the gastric acid, and production of red and white cells. It also stimulates the release of a variety of hormones that help body to respond to injury and stress.
The Gate Control Theory of PainAccording to this theory, pain signals must pass through a number of high-traffic gates as they move from the area of injury upward through the spinal cord into the brain. Like a road or highway, these nerves can handle only a limited number of nerve signals at one time. The pain signals travels very slowly. We can generate other signals which move faster. The faster signals crowd out the slower ones because of the limited capacity of the nerves. (Remember the time sitting in traffic near a construction zone, where the two lanes merge into one. The fast cars on the merging lanes go further and merge ahead of the slower ones, making it nearly impossible for the slow traffic on the lane to move forward. Now think about the pain signals are the slow ones sitting there waiting for an opening to move through. If one can produce enough fast signals, it can effectively crowd out the pain signals.) Acupuncture generates competing stimulus and effectively blocks the slow pain signals from reaching the brain. The result: we never experience the pain.
Electrical Theory of PainThe body continually generates tiny but detectable electrical discharges. This electrical field influences the growth, maturation, and functioning of some types of cells. It is known that acupuncture points are concentrated in regions of low electrical resistance. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between the electromagnetic fields in the body and the channels or meridians. So, this electrical theory of acupuncture suggests that acupuncture works by influencing the body's electromagnetic fields. Acupuncture points have certain electrical properties, and stimulating these points alters chemical neurotransmitters in the body.

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