Acupuncture effects every major system of the human body. Some of the systems are explained more in depth below as to what may be happening. Research has shown that nearly every disease involves a disturbance of homeostasis, inflammation, and many times some degree of pain. As we look at the broad effects listed below we can begin to understand why it may be effective for many different conditions.
Broad Primary Effects of Acupuncture:
1. It relieves pain
2. It reduces inflammation
3. It restores homeostasis
There are two primary pain theories as to what may be taking place which are explored more in depth below. The insertion of needles primarily effect the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system. These systems are the master control of almost every other system, specifically the nervous and endocrine system. Acupuncture is supporting and regulating these systems, helping to remind the body to do what it already knows how to do. This is in contrast to over-riding the system or a specific pathway which many drugs do and thus have higher risk for adverse side effects.
Inflammation has been understood to be present in nearly every disease process, thus the power of acupuncture is not limited in its effects to only treat pain.
Every disease is rooted in a disturbance of homeostasis which is defined as the body’s ability to regulate its environment and maintain internal balance.
Acupuncture Reduces Stress and Increases Emotional Well-Being
Acupuncture Releases Natural Pain Killers
Acupuncture Reduces Both Intensity And Perception Of Chronic Pain
Acupuncture Promotes Blood Flow
Acupuncture Relaxes Shortened Muscles
Acupuncture is one of the best therapies at modulating the parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” and sympathetic “fight-or-flight” parts of the autonomic nervous system. Research suggests acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin a hormone responsible for turning on the “rest-and-digest” or parasympathetic system. Research has demonstrated that an impaired parasympathetic functioning is present in many disease processes. This impaired functioning is present in autoimmune conditions such as lupus, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and many others. It also affects emotional responses with its modulating effect on the midbrain, specifically the hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala. These parts of the midbrain affect an individuals response to stress which in turn affects the endocrine system.
The insertion of acupuncture needles stimulate the peripheral nervous system which signals pathways of communication that affect parts of the central nervous system such as the amygdala, midbrain, thalamus, hippocampus and cerebral cortex. The studies demonstrate a release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, endorphins and enkephalins which not only are all involved in helping the body deal with pain but many times more powerful than morphine.
Acupuncture’s effect as explained above on increasing endorphins and enkephalins which play a major role in helping to reduce the perception and intensity of pain. The process through which this happens is called “descending control normalization” which involves the serotonergic nervous system. This relates to the the Gate Control Theory of Pain as explained above in more detail.
Acupuncture has been demonstrated in many studies to increase blood flow and vasodilation to many different areas of the body. This is vitally important as if one really remembers the basic principle of why proper blood flow is important a stark realization happens. The blood contains everything. It contains oxygen, hormones, nutrients we absorb from food, analgesics (painkillers), anti-inflammatories, anti-oxidants, and substances from our immense system to help fight infection. The key is if blood flow is restricted its nearly impossible for healing to occur anywhere in the body as these substances are the building blocks and catalysts for this to happen. In other words no blood flow, no healing. The blood also removes waste products such as C02, lattice acid, and facilitates proper fluid balance.
The insertion of needles, relax shortened muscles and in turn reduce pressure on joint and nerve structures. This in turn promotes proper blood flow.