How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture is often successful where traditional Western Medical treatments are not. If you have symptoms your doctor cannot diagnose, or a complicated condition with many layers, acupuncture is a fantastic treatment option. Acupuncture also treats everyday common complaints without the unwanted side effects of medication.
Acupuncture can help you feel more energetic, emotionally balanced, and resistant to stress even if you do not have any specific medical complaints.
- Increases circulation by stimulating nitric oxide, which enhances the flow of fresh blood and thus oxygen and nutrients to an area of injury to speed healing and to flush out waste products, toxins, and stagnant blood.
- Releases muscle tension & pain by accessing trigger points in your muscles. Trigger points are well-documented tender areas which, when stimulated, release tension in muscle fiber. Acupuncture needles cause your muscles to release, thus relieving pain and tension. Read more about Trigger Point Therapy. Pain is a complex issue, and acupuncture is highly effective. Check out the research for detailed descriptions of how acupuncture reduces pain.
- Produces endorphins (the body’s natural opiate-like chemicals) that reduce pain, relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Endorphins give you the euphoric “acupuncture high” feeling.
- Reduces stress via nitric oxide and vasodilation. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system reduces output of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress hormones, while necessary in small amounts, are released much too frequently in most people and are responsible for damage at all cellular levels in your body. They age you, cause sleep disruption, weight gain, appetite disturbance, and emotional imbalances. Reducing this systemic response is hugely important in relieving health concerns. Read more about the research.
- Stimulates the parasympathetic system which is our “rest and digest” system (in contrast to the sympathetic system which is our “fight or flight” mode). You may hear your belly start to gurgle when you receive an acupuncture treatment: strong evidence that your parasympathetic system has been activated. By taking you out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest” mode, acupuncture tells your body to stop using up resources and start rebuilding and nourishing the areas that need attention. We only heal in a parasympathetic state.
- Regulates the immune system, through the activation of T-cells and nitric oxide. This fortifies you against colds and flu, allergies, autoimmune conditions, and inflammation. Acupuncture needles can stimulate both red and white blood cell production.
- Reduces inflammation (through a combination of the mechanisms mentioned above)– but I feel this benefit warrants special emphasis because inflammation is the root of all disease. Inflammation is a healthy response to tissue damage and it can stimulate our bodies’ self-healing mechanisms, but for many of us, poor diets and unrelieved stressors cause our inflammatory response to over-activate. Acupuncture needles stimulate histamine, increase nitric oxide and boost circulation while producing endorphins, and activating our parasympathetic (rest and digest) system. Through all of these mechanisms, acupuncture regulates the inflammatory response. Less inflammation can lead to a longer healthier life.
- Regulates the central nervous system. Neuroacupuncture uses acupuncture points on the head and scalp to inhibit or excite different regions of the brain. This contemporary acupuncture technique has an immediate and often profound impact on central nervous system function.
- X factor. I’ll be honest, we don’t know everything about how acupuncture works, just like we don’t everything about how the body works. The above mechanisms explain much of it, but acupuncture sometimes has seemingly miraculous results. There are some interesting theories, such as this one about Bonghan channels, and this recent study showing meridian lines influence stem cells. There is so much we don’t yet know or understand about the human body.
At my office, I use a unique treatment called Vagus Nerve Stimulation.
Acupuncture is amazing for helping to regulate vagal nerve response. A regulated vagus nerve reduces anxiety, PTSD and trauma responses, depression, improves digestion, treats autoimmune issues, and reduces inflammation. I’ve developed a very effective technique using electroacupuncture on specific ear and body points that stimulate the vagus nerve to strengthen tone and regulate vagal response.
Electroacupuncture uses a small machine that emits a painless electromagnetic pulse. The electromagnetic pulse feels like a slight buzzing or tapping and is not unpleasant. After 20-30 minutes of this, you will leave the office feeling incredibly relaxed. That vagal nerve stimulation will help regulate all the processes controlled by the vagal nerve, which can treat a huge number of neurological and inflammatory issues. More info on why vagal nerve tone is so important here.