In part one of this article I discussed the ancient art of Acupuncture and gave a brief synopsis of the history and theory in accordance to the Eastern medicine philosophy.
In this article I will explain acupuncture in modern, scientific terms or what I referred to in the last blog as the ‘Western Explanation’.
Based on current research it has been shown that acupuncture exhibits is effect on the body through stimulation of the nervous system, so it becomes important to first explain how our nervous system operates.
Basically the nervous system is divided into two main divisions: the central nervous system (or the brain and spinal cord), and the peripheral nervous system (all other nerves branching out from the central nervous system).
Another important part of the nervous system is something called the autonomic nervous system (or involuntary nervous system), which is actually part of the peripheral nervous system. This part of the nervous system regulates visceral function, which basically means things like heart rate, respiration, digestion, perspiration, or basically all things that are below the level of conscious control. Think of it like the body’s ‘auto-pilot’.
Ok, now back to acupuncture. When a needle is inserted below the dermis, there are many nerve structures that are affected in that local tissue level. When these nerves are stimulated, those ‘signals’ travel up to the brain. In fact a lot of this information is ‘relayed’ via the autonomic nervous system. This is referred to as neuroautonomic regulation. The brain then ‘processes’ those signals and stimulates the release of many different biochemicals. Things that many of us have heard of like endorphins, enkephalins, GABA, serotonin, dopamine etc.
So what do all of these chemicals do?
They provide endogenous pain control, meaning that they tap into your body’s own pharmacy, and modulate the release of pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory chemicals. They stimulate local tissue healing responses that speed up the healing response and improve the quality of the way the body heals the tissue. They improve your mood, largely due to the stimulation of the release of hormones like serotonin, which will also therefore potentially improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Overall, acupuncture ‘taps into’ the body’s natural healing resources.
So why you might ask, can’t we stick a needle anywhere in the body to get these results?
It just so happens that ‘classical’ acupuncture points that were discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago, turn out to be areas where there is a high density of nerves or blood vessels in the body, therefore they provide the highest level of stimulus on the brain. Interestingly, recent studies using MRI technology have shown how stimulating acupuncture points on distal parts of the body actually will increase blood flow to specific areas of the brain. This happens much more on classical points than it does on random points.
Finally, the World Health Organization in recognition of the effectiveness of acupuncture, has acknowledged that it can be effective in the treatment of over 200 conditions.
If you would like to discuss Acupuncture further, or to make an appointment, please call us at 519-258-8544.