Tap to Read ➤

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Dr. Maisie M
Acupuncture therapy is based on the concept of "chi" (pronounced Chee), which is the subtle energy of the universe present in all living forms. This energy flows through various channels in the body known as meridians, to maintain a good physical and mental health.
Any discomfort in the body, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, occurs due to an imbalance of energies within. Acupuncture needles, when pierced on the body, restore the balance of these energies.
Acupuncture is a Chinese form of alternative medicine that has been used for more than 4000 years and has recently gained popularity in the Western countries. It was earlier practiced with bian stones, wood or bone needles, and metal needles.
However, with the advancement in recent medicine, this therapy is carried out with the help of fine needles that can be used directly, or by adding electrical impulses, vibrations, sound waves, and lasers to them. The insertion of needles in particular points on the body helps treat various diseases.

How does This Therapy Work

The exact mechanism of this technique is still obscure, though the therapy has achieved a new dimension with modern techniques to treat various illnesses. The theories put forth regarding the working of this technique are as follows:

Traditional Chinese Theory

Interrupted or deficient flow of chi energy is considered to cause various disorders. Traditional method seeks to relieve these blocked channels by inserting needles along the specific points.

Augmentation of Immunity Theory

This theory suggests that this technique boosts the overall immunity of the body, and helps fight disease by raising the levels of antibodies, prostaglandins, and white blood cells.

Gate Control Theory for Pain

Melzack and Wall introduced this theory in early 1960s. As per this theory, the brain perceives the pain depending upon the signals that reach it through the nerve gates in the spinal cord. By using this technique, the nerve gates inhibit the transmission of pain stimuli and stimulate the pain-relieving nerve fibers.

Endorphin Theory

Endorphins are chemicals in the central nervous system that act as pain inhibitors. The needles that are inserted in the body, trigger the release of hormones endorphin, enkephalin, and serotonin that display pain-relieving properties.

Electrical theory

According to this theory, this technique regulates the electromagnetic energy in the body. These electrical discharges stimulate the various functions of the body cells and their development. Certain medical research has also documented the correlation between meridians and the electromagnetic field.

Circulation Theory

Needles used in acupuncture help in the constriction or dilation of blood vessels, which improves blood circulation.
Recent clinical trials suggest that Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control (DNIC) has some role to play in causing an analgesic effect. This means that the needles activate an analgesic system within the body, that cannot perceive the pain even in the presence of pain signals.
Though there are many theories put forth to explain how acupuncture works, none of them can satisfactorily explain it with the help of western model of medicine. However, the effects of this technique are far from placebo results, and it has been used as a best pain control therapy in chronic illnesses. It also helps in treating immune disorders, psychological illnesses, and addictions.