How does Acupuncture work?

acupuncture-pointsIt might seem bizarre that inserting needles into various points on the body can influence the way our cells work. But a lot of research shows this is the case.

One of the areas most studied is the pain-killing effect of acupuncture. We have known for some time now that acupuncture affects nerve conduction within the spinal cord. The basis of the theory is that acupuncture stimulation ‘closes a gate’ within the spinal cord, preventing pain signals from travelling up the spinal cord and getting to the brain.

Beyond this, we also know that acupuncture has hormonal effects. Researchers initially noted that when people addicted to narcotic drugs (like heroin or morphine) had surgery using acupuncture as anaesthesia, they did not experience the withdrawal syndrome that you’d usually expect when the narcotics were stopped. This is because endorphins, the chemicals released by the brain when you exercise that are responsible for the “feel-good” phenomenon, are also released during acupuncture. This effect can be blocked with an endorphin-blocking drug.

We also know that acupuncture increases blood flow at the site needled, probably through local release of biochemically active substances.

Do meridians really exist?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, energy (Qi) flows through the body along pathways or meridians, and acupuncture influences this flow. These meridian lines are depicted in texts that are at least 2000 years old.

Scientists have found that electrical resistance of the skin is much lower at acupuncture points (which are mainly situated along the meridians) than other points. This supports the idea of a flow of electrical energy through the body along meridians, which can be accessed via the skin at the acupuncture points.


acupuncture meridiansBut has science found any other evidence that meridians exist?

One study injected radioactive tracer molecules into acupuncture points (on meridians) and random points not on meridians. At the acupuncture points, the tracer travelled in a line consistent with the traditional description of the meridian, whereas it just diffused outwards at the non-meridian point.

When we look down a conventional microscope, meridians have been elusive. But some studies using electron microscopy (giving a much more magnified view in which individual cells can be seen) have shown thread-like structures within lymphatics, within blood vessels, on the surface of organs, and elsewhere. These structures appeared to contain fluid and may be the meridians described in ancient texts.

Although further research into this is required, the preliminary findings are fascinating. Clearly we are only just beginning to understand the science behind what the ancient texts described thousands of years ago.


How does chiropractic work?

Health In The Bay rainbowOur Musculoskeletal system (ie our muscles and skeleton) is what allows us to stand, be upright and move. Musculoskeletal symptoms are what we often feel as pain in muscles and joints, and as stiffness. Through everyday stress on our bodies, such as poor posture, sustained work postures, minor bumps and falls and strains, our musculoskeletal system can become unbalanced.
This means that the relationship between the muscle and skeleton is not ideal, and this system then does not work efficiently or ergonomically, resulting in these symptoms of pain and mucsle spasms.

Chiropractic is the art and science of determining where these imbalances lie, where they have originated and why they have occurred. Then with the use of simple techniques applied to the muscles or joints, the body is able to rebalance and so function more normally and therefore function without any pain or muscle tightness.