Acupuncture is a Chinese medical practice based on the belief that pain, dysfunction, illness and other ailments result from imbalances in the body. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points that are effective in the treatment of specific health problems. Treatments aim to harmonize and regulate the body’s imbalances with the goal of treating underlying patterns to relieve symptoms and promote overall wellbeing.
Chinese doctors mapped acupuncture points over thousands of years, often by trial and error, and there are more than 1,000 known acupoints. In the past three decades, electromagnetic research has confirmed the existence and location of many of these points.
Acupuncture has evolved over time, as well, and is not confined to the practices developed millennia ago. Over the past several decades, modern practitioners all over the world have built on ancient practices and developed new approaches and techniques. Today, practitioners tend to have their own styles and preferences for treatment methods, and acupuncture can include not only the use of “traditional” points and techniques but also the insertion of needles into muscles (e.g. trigger points) and other points based on more of a Western physiological model.
While acupuncture’s exact mechanisms of action are still not yet fully understood, research is continually providing more insight into ways in which acupuncture works. Specifically, acupuncture has been shown to:
- Increase blood circulation to injured tissues, which promotes faster recovery
- Release trigger points to ease the cascade of symptoms caused by tight and stuck fascia
- Stimulate motor points, which can help with muscle dysfunction and muscular imbalances
- Trigger the release of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers
- Decrease sympathetic nervous system activity and balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to allow you to rest, digest and repair more effectively
- Reduce both local and systemic inflammation
- Decrease fatigue and increase resistance to fatigue
- Treat insomnia, both difficulty falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety, possibly by blocking the chronic stress-related release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters
For links to some interesting research, click here or click on the “Resources” tab at the top of the page.