Why Acupuncture Works

acupuncture Why Acupuncture WorksAcupuncture uses language like qi, yin, and meridians. These terminologies date back to over 3,000 years ago from a time in which disecting humans to learn knowledge of how the human bodies did not exist. In other words from a Medical standpoint, from a time of ignorance. Yet the practice is still used today and is even being embraced by many different traditional medicine practioners, especially for pain management. So why then does it work?

There are several different reasons why it may work. To start let’s look at the nerves and then go down the list from there.We will use Acupuncture for pain management in the following examples.

The Gate Control Theory is a theory developed in the 1960′s. Essentially the foundation behind the theory is that pain is sent from tiny bundles of nerves through larger bundles of nerves to the brain where the signal is interpreted as pain. When a small bundle of nerves experiences slight cold or warmth for instance there is an inhibitor in place blocking the signal of pain from entering the large bundles of nerves therefore no pain is detected. When pain comes in however the small nerve bundles overwhelm the large bundles ability to inhibit the pain sensation and we perceive pain. The theory behind acupuncture is to stimulate the large bundles of nerves that would normally transmit the pain signal, to send out the inhibitors so that we do not experience the pain. To put it in layman’s terms, when we bump our elbow, our reaction is to rub the spot we hit, by stimulating nerves that surround our source of pain, the pain dissipates faster.

Another theory is the release of endorphins. Our body releases these when we eat chocolate, or eat food when we are very hungry, during sex, and on long distance runs to mention a few. These levels can be tracked in our blood in a laboratory setting. Shortly after acupuncture treatment there is a noticeable increase in endorphins detected in patients that just had acupuncture practiced on them.

In the 1950′s a theory called nerve reflex was studied. The theory proposes that the epidermis is connected to the bodies internal organs via the viscero-cutaneous reflex. The thought is that by stimulating this reflex with needles you can change the flow of blood to and surrounding the stomach which is the primary cause of  nausea and vomiting in patients dealing with chemotherapy.

Of course the word “placebo” has to be mentioned in this article. The Placebo affect however is something that is demonstrable, as the blood flow can be seen changing in the cortices of the brain with a patient that was given a placebo. So the fact remains that there is medical evidence that the placebo effect works well on some patients and not as well on others. So if a patient happens to be in the category of patients that respond well to placebo this may to an extent account for at least some of the success in acupuncture.

Our final theory is that the simple act of human touch can be therapeutic in and of itself. Similar to the same way that a crying baby can be soothed by the nurturing touch of her mother, acupuncture employs the touch of an individual delivering touch to our bodies with the sole intent to heal us. Our Western society is so disassociated from healing touch, so that when brought into the right context this can have a major benefit to our needs. The can be seen  in studies where toothpicks are used instead of needles, and no puncturing of the skin takes place. The test subjects showed positive results without the use of needles. The commonality is the practice of acupuncture itself. The ritualistic nature and the constancy of human touch.

The truth is we don’t know why acupuncture works but we do know that is does work. So why argue with something that works? If all the science in the world can’t tell you otherwise, maybe you should look into it yourself.

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