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How might acupuncture work?

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Updated: Thursday, Sep 03,2009, 10:36:42 AM
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Acupuncture is one of the key components of the system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the coldtcmwell.com

Acupuncture is one of the key components of the system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold...

Acupuncture is one of the key components of the system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle. Among the major assumptions in TCM are that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state" and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi (vital energy) along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians and that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body that connect with them.

Preclinical studies have documented Acupuncture effects, but they have not been able to fully explain how acupuncture works within the framework of the Western system of medicine that is commonly practiced in the United States. It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.


Historically, acupuncture points were believed to be holes that allow entry into channels. These holes provide us gateways to influence, redirect, increase, or decrease body's vital substance, qi, thus correcting many of the imbalances. Many studies and research were directed since to understand the mechanism of acupuncture.

Effects of Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the immune system. It also has affects the circulation, blood pressure, rhythm and stroke volume of the heart, secretion of the gastric acid, and production of red and white cells. It also stimulates the release of a variety of hormones that help body to respond to injury and stress.

The Gate Control Theory of Pain
According to this theory, pain signals must pass through a number of high-traffic "gates" as they move from the area of injury upward through the spinal cord into the brain. Like a road or highway, these nerves can handle only a limited number of nerve signals at one time. The pain signals travels very slowly. We can generate other signals which move faster. The faster signals crowd out the slower ones because of the limited capacity of the nerves. (Remember the time sitting in traffic near a construction zone, where the two lanes merge into one. The fast cars on the merging lanes go further and merge ahead of the slower ones, making it nearly impossible for the slow traffic on the lane to move forward. Now think about the pain signals are the slow ones sitting there waiting for an opening to move through. If one can produce enough fast signals, it can effectively crowd out the pain signals.) Acupuncture generates competing stimulus and effectively blocks the slow pain signals from reaching the brain. The result: we never "experience the pain".

Electrical Theory of Pain
The body continually generates tiny but detectable electrical discharges. This electrical field influences the growth, maturation, and functioning of some types of cells. It is known that acupuncture points are concentrated in regions of low electrical resistance. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between the electromagnetic fields in the body and the channels or meridians. So, this electrical theory of acupuncture suggests that Acupunctureworks by influencing the body's electromagnetic fields. Acupuncture points have certain electrical properties, and stimulating these points alters chemical neurotransmitters in the body.



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