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How Does Acupuncture Work Its Magic?

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How the Amazing Benefits of Acupuncture are Released by the Body

A lot of people know that acupuncture works. However, there is often confusion about how literally sticking needles into the body at strategic points can actually provide pain relief and healing, among other benefits. It isn’t “whether” it works or helps, the question is “how” the magic happens.

The key is understanding the concept of “meridians”, or pathways that conduct energy and life force throughout the body. The article below goes a bit into the theory of how all this works and helps make sense of it.

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Acupuncture is widely understood to be a non-traditional (not a traditional part of western medicine) treatment option for back pain or neck pain. While acupuncture is often not the first line of treatment sought for most back or neck problems, an increasing number of patients, as well as physicians and other health professionals are starting to use acupuncture as a means to reduce neck pain and back pain.

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that can be traced back at least 2,500 years. The general premise of acupuncture is that the body contains patterns of energy flow. The vital energy or life force of the body is referred to as qi (pronounced “chee”), and proper flow of qi is considered to be necessary to maintain health.

The theory of acupuncture is that there are over 2,000 points on the human body that connect with 20 pathways (meridians). These pathways conduct the qi throughout the body. With acupuncture, hair-thin metallic needles are inserted into specific combinations of these 2,000 points in an attempt to correct and/or maintain a normal flow of qi.

Acupuncture is thought to operate by:

  • Release of opioid peptides. Opioids are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that have an analgesic effect. The release of these opioids plays a significant role in the reduction of pain. There has been considerable evidence to support that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, releasing these chemicals.
  • Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Acupuncture is said to activate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and thereby alter secretion of these chemicals. These particular chemicals play a direct role in the sensation of pain as well as the activity of an organ or organs. Evidence has shown that acupuncture alters this secretion in a manner that reduces pain. Documentation has also shown that acupuncture positively affects immune functions in the body.
  • Stimulation of electromagnetic points on the body. The 2,000 points of the body that acupuncture focuses on are theorized to be strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulation of these areas is believed to start the flow of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

While there are many experts in the medical field who believe acupuncture is an effective way to treat certain conditions, there is no true consensus. Some define the benefits of acupuncture within the realm of traditional Chinese theories such as qi and meridians. Others understand and attribute acupuncture’s benefits to certain scientific and biological changes they bring about in the body (as mentioned above). Alternatively, some question the ability of acupuncture to have any impact at all. The skeptics should give it a chance and seek proof for themselves.

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