What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapeutic treatment that has been evolving over the course of around 2000 years from its origins in China.
As a core component of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a treatment used to ease a variety of symptoms and ailments and to create the experience of health, relaxation and vitality. The focus of treatment is always holistic and the aim is not only to resolve the symptom you’re seeking treatment for, but to generate positive changes in your health as a whole.
Since the mid to late twentieth century acupuncture has spread rapidly from its birthplace in the East and is used nowadays by millions of people worldwide to ease the symptoms of illness and to promote and maintain their health. In many countries it is used alongside or in conjunction with western medicine.
In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that acupuncture should be made available on the NHS as a cost-effective short-term treatment for the management of early, non-specific lower back pain.
In 2012, NICE further endorsed the use of acupuncture for the short term treatment of tension headache and migraine. Of particular note was that the only treatment NICE recommended in the prevention of tension headache was acupuncture.
Although designing clinical trials that test acupuncture appropriately are complex, previous trials have demonstrated acupuncture’s use in the short term management of chronic neck pain, overactive bladder syndrome, temperomandibular pain and as a supportive treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. In routine use traditional acupuncture is used to affect many areas of health, and always in the treatment of the whole person, never a symptom in isolation.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture evolved in ancient China in a pre-scientific time, as such traditional acupuncture theory is very different from a modern scientific conception of the body. However in recent times, it’s been possible to study acupuncture from a physiological perspective, and we can now understand acupuncture as a technique of neurohumoral modulation – which is to say it’s a way of stimulating your body’s production of endorphins and other endogenous opioids which diminish pain, lift mood and affect a wide range of bodily systems.
When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the body it stimulates the peripheral nervous system. This creates local effects in the tissues surrounding the needle, and wider effects in the central nervous system which influence the body as a whole.
In the tissues surrounding the needle, acupuncture stimulates nerve endings which release vasodilating chemicals that increase blood flow and speed up tissue regeneration. In the spinal cord, acupuncture promotes the production of enkephalin which reduces pain and decrease muscle tension, and in the brain acupuncture promotes the production of endorphin, serotonin, and other neuropeptides which lift mood and promote sensations of calm and well being. Acupuncture also exerts deactivating effects on limbic structures in the brain, which are areas important in hormone regulation, sleep and wake cycles, and emotional equilibrium.
Click here to find out What happens in an acupuncture treatment