What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated between 2000 and 3000 years ago, in South East Asia. It’s a treatment method which aims to support the bodies own natural healing resources. During treatment, specific points on the body, known as acupoints, are stimulated either by the insertion of fine needles, heat, pressure or laser.

Today Acupuncture is widely practiced worldwide. It is a rational, personal and evidence based system, which is used, not only by acupuncturists, but also by some Western Medical Doctors, Midwives, Veterinarians, and other healthcare professionals.

So how does acupuncture work?

Traditionally acupuncture’s healing effect is thought to stem from its ability to improve the flow energy (qi) within the body, and balance the opposing, yet complementary natural forces of Yin and Yang. This balancing is similar in concept to the Western idea of homeostasis.

Over the last 2 decades, there has been huge growth, in both the quantity, and quality of Acupuncture research. From the results of this research, we now know that the insertion of Acupuncture needles, triggers the nervous system to start a cascade of events, which cause changes to both the brain and the internal organs. Brain scans show that Acupuncture stimulation deactivates the parts of the brain associated with stress ( the fight or flight response) and activates the parts associated with the parasympathetic nervous system ( the rest and restore part).

Acupuncture also stimulates the body to release its own natural pain killers such as Endorphins and molecules such as Adenosine are also released, which are associated with tissue healing and disease resolution. Some great references which demonstrate this relationship are listed below.

Chen, X., Luo, F., Fujita, T., Ren, Z., Goldman, N., Zhao, Y., . . . Nedergaard, M. (2012). Traditional Acupuncture Triggers a Local Increase in Adenosine in Human Subjects [Abstract]. The Journal of Pain,13(12), 1215-1223.
Ling, D., Pena, I.D., Lin, L., Zhou, S., Borlongan, C.V.,& Cao, C. (2014). The Neuroprotective role of Acupuncture and Activation of the BDNF Signaling Pathway . International Journal of Molecular Sciences 15(2), 3234-3252. dog:10.3390/ijms15023234

How is acupuncture different to Western medicine?

Western medicine tends to treat symptoms, whereas acupuncture aims to treat the cause of the symptoms. Acupuncture (and Chinese Medicine generally) recognises that symptoms are actually the body’s way of communicating to us that all is not well. Acupuncture is holistic medicine, and as such takes into account the whole person—body, mind and spirit.