An Ancient Medicine
Practitioners of this ancient medical practice have experienced clinical success with a variety of health issues. Today, acupuncture is receiving wide acceptance as a respected, valid, and effective form of health care.
When most people think about acupuncture, they are familiar with its use for pain management. But acupuncture has a proven track record of treating and addressing a variety of endocrine, circulatory, and systemic conditions. Acupuncture and modern science, used together, have the potential to support, strengthen, and nurture the body towards health and well being.
Physiological Effects of Acupuncture
Over the last few decades, research has been conducted seeking to explain how acupuncture works and what it can and cannot treat.
The 1997 NIH Consensus on Acupuncture reports that "studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons, to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways, affecting various physiological systems in the brain, as well as in the periphery."
The report suggests that acupuncture "may activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally, have been documented. There is also evidence of immune functions changes produced by acupuncture."
The NIH states that: "One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse events is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions. As an example, musculoskeletal conditions, such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and tennis elbow, or epicondylitis, are conditions for which acupuncture may be beneficial. These painful conditions are often treated with anti-inflammatory or with steroid injections.
Both medical interventions have a potential deleterious side effects, but are still widely considered acceptable treatments. The evidence supporting these therapies is no better than that for acupuncture."
Acupuncture Mechanism Theories
Acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive system.
Autonomic Nervous System Theory
Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and several types of opiods, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system and reducing pain.
Gate Control Theory
Acupuncture activates non-nociceptive receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn, "gating out" painful stimuli.
Acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues.
Blood Chemistry Theory
Acupuncture affects the blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis.
World Wide Acceptance
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 51 % of medical doctors understand the efficacy and value of acupuncture, and medical doctors refer patients to acupuncturists more than any other alternative care provider.