It seems incredible that an ancient way of healing has now been proven by medical science to be a natural, safe, effective and drug-free alternative.
Even the World Health Organization has recommended 40 conditions that acupuncture can treat including:
- Common cold
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Tennis elbow
- Paralysis from stroke
- Inflammation of the eyes
How Acupuncture Works
During the early 1960s, a North Korean medical surgeon at Pyongyang Medical University discovered the primo-vascular system using microdissection techniques.
This system is comprised of a body-wide network of duct-like tubes, also known as Bonghan ducts.
These network of tubes matches the paths of traditional acupuncture meridians and are different from other tube-like structures like capillaries and lymph vessels.
In 2005, the Bonghan duct and the primo-vascular system were both featured on the cover page of The Anatomical Record, an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists.
There are several suggested mechanisms of action.
Natural Pain-killing Substances
Scientific studies show that needling increases the concentrations of naturally occurring pain-killing substances dynorphin (acting at the spinal level), endorphin (acting within the brain), and encephalin (acting both in the brain and at a spinal level).
Endorphins and encephalins are potent blockers or modulators of pain coming from the musculoskeletal system. Dynorphin is a powerful modulator of visceral pain (pain coming from organs of the body).
There are other theories; like the neurogate theory, endogenous corticosteroid release, myofibrillary entanglement, local blood flow and mesolimbic loop of analgesia that explain the mechanisms of action that is beyond the scope of this article.
Traditional Theory of Action
Fine needles (32-36 gauge) are inserted into body areas called acupoints. Traditional Chinese Medicine describes as much as 356 mapped points situated on meridians or channels of energy flow on the surface of the body.
In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, the body’s internal condition is a delicate balance of two opposing but interconnected forces – the yin and yang.
Yin and yang can be viewed as complementary or interdependent (rather than opposing) forces that work together to create a balanced and dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.
The leading theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine is that health is attained by keeping the body in a “balanced state” and that disease is a consequence of an internal imbalance of yin and yang.
The imbalance can cause a blockage in the flow of Qi (vital energy) along pathways called meridians (channels).
Chinese medicine claims that there are 12 principal meridians and 8 supplementary meridians and that there are more than 2,000 acupoints on the body that connect with them. Whether we believe this or not, the correlations are consistent with clinical observations and findings that have existed for hundreds of years.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the needles can influence the flow of energy in the meridians that form a network over and inside the body. These meridians work to regulate and support bodily functions.
Fine and soft stainless steel needles (single-use) are inserted to a depth of 4-25 mm and left in place for a prescribed period (from a few seconds to several minutes). Generally, 6 – 12 needles (and sometimes more) are inserted at several acupoints.
What Does It Feel Like?
Typically, you will have minimal sensation once the needle is tapped through the skin. As the needle moves to the proper depth, you will feel a dull spreading ache for a second or two. This is usually bland and feels more strange than painful.
Sometimes the needle hits a tiny blood vessel or nerve ending and you could experience a little sharp or stinging pain. Whenever this happens it is best to let the practitioner know so he can reposition the needle.
Slight electrical stimuli can also be connected through the needles, giving a feeling of tingling or buzzing.
After the first dull feeling, there should be no more discomfort. People generally claim to feel relaxed or sleepy during treatment. They also can feel other mild sensations that are unusual but not unpleasant.
Contraindications to the use of acupuncture
Acupuncture is technically an invasive procedure and has rarely accompanied risks. Serious injury is extremely rare considering the enormous amounts of needles inserted yearly throughout the world.
A well-trained specialist can prevent these types of problems.
The employment of single-use disposable needles eradicated cross infection.
The usual complication is syncope or pre-syncope (needle shock reaction). In most situation, removal of the needles and doing the technique while you are lying rather than sitting is sufficient to avoid this.
Listed below are the contraindications of acupuncture.
- Needle phobia
- Severe bleeding diatheses
- Inability to remain still for treatment
- Systemic sepsis
- Uncooperative – hallucinating, delusions, etc.
- Pregnancy – avoid any points known to stimulate uterine contractility
- Points over nipples, umbilicus, and major vessels are forbidden by conventional texts
- Point over infant fontanel
- Application during menses (less effective)
- If the patient is on corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, or narcotics (less effective)
- Anticoagulant drug
Western medicine has not yet been able to fully comprehend how acupuncture produces its various effects. However, it is evident that acupuncture works. Its effectiveness and safety have been recognized and investigated for hundreds of years. You can fool all the people some of the time, but it is impossible to fool entire nations for hundreds of years.
Modern medicine, even with its scientific basis, is still an experimental and empirical science. A great number of yesterday’s wonder drugs are today’s horror stories. More than 80% of the drugs taken twenty years ago are ineffective or out of use today, as commercial demands to recoup investments and the greed to earn more money send unproven and poorly tested drugs to the market.
Medical scientists have always been skeptical about acupuncture because they cannot figure out how it works. During the last 15 to 20 years, substantial evidence has emerged on the scientific principles and mechanisms by which acupuncture works.
However, there is still no exact theory which explains how acupuncture works. Research is still in progress and in the future, we can anticipate a much better understanding as to how acupuncture works.
In the end, from the patient’s standpoint, it is not crucial to understand why or how acupuncture works, as to understand that it does work and is effective.
It is a safe, effective and time tested procedure for treatment which in skilled hands produces miraculous results. Even more importantly, acupuncture can easily heal several diseases faster and more effectively than any system of medicine.
A healthier you is within your reach, starting today. Obviously, a healthy lifestyle is a long-term commitment. But there are simple steps you can take right now which will make you healthier today than yesterday and build a foundation for a healthy living tomorrow.
Take the first step and contact us. During this process, we will recommend options that will work best for you. Every client is different, so our practitioners tailor the procedure to match each person’s needs.