How does acupuncture work?
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO...
There are many theories explaining how and why acupuncture works. In western models, research has shown that acupuncture may regulate the nervous system, activate endorphins, stimulate the immune system or alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones.
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a comprehensive medical system based on over 3,000 years of clinical observation. Acupuncture theory views the body from a holistic approach. The body’s signs and symptoms help an acupuncturist form a diagnostic impression based on a pattern of symptoms. This is why your acupuncturist may ask you several questions about your overall health that may seem unrelated to your primary concern. The treatment plan developed will then not only be designed to treat the symptoms that you are experiencing but also the underlying cause of the problem. It takes time to stimulate the body’s own natural healing process. Therefore, the course of treatment with acupuncture or related modalities may be longer than expected and the results may be more subtle.
TCM theory suggests that the body is composed of an essential substance, called qi (chee). Qi is thought to be the essential energy which stimulates all of the important physiological functions of the body. Qi circulates through the body through 14 major meridians or pathways similar to the way blood circulates through major vessels. These meridians function as connections between major organs, muscles and tissues of the body to maintain a delicate balance of qi, yin and yang. Yin and yang are two other important concepts in TCM representing the foundation and activity of all of the major physiological systems of the body. Physiological health is viewed as an intricate balance between qi, yin and yang.
When the body is experiencing pain, discomfort or disease, an imbalance is occurring in one or more of the meridian systems. Acupuncture is the process by which small, fine, disposable needles are inserted into acupuncture points along these meridians in order to access the qi and effect the functioning of major physiological systems of the body. Acupuncture points are areas where the qi is thought to be the most accessible. Research has also shown that acupuncture points have different electrical resistance and higher neuromuscular and vascular innervation. These points are then used to unblock, restore and reconnect the flow of qi, yin and yang.
Additional modalities such as electroacupuncture, ear acupressure, cupping, tui na, gua sha, nutrition and herbal medicine are also used for treatment of various ailments. Today, the amount of evidence based research is growing in support of acupuncture as it has become a valued treatment method for numerous conditions. These include: back pain, disc degenerative disease, fibromyalgia, the common cold, angina, tinnitus, addictions, infertility, asthma, and headaches.
Feel free to ask me for related research articles or for additional explanation regarding your specific diagnosis. This information can be an important way to gain understanding and insight to the health problems you have been experiencing.
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA. Jessica first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery.
She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Areas of specialty include women's health, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine. For patients interested in learning more about acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please click here.