• Jessica Gradel,DC,MS,L.Ac

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

Qi and Meridian systems are traditional explanations of over 3000 years of observation, as western medicine becomes more accepting of acupuncture it is important to translate these observations into accepted western terminology.

Translation in processes:

As case studies lead to more clinical studies our understanding of acupuncture's relationship with influencing our nervous system becomes more evident.


C-Fibers, Pain modulation, and Acupuncture.

Studies are showing that with the insertion of an acupuncture needle into the skin at known acupuncture points there is a disruption of the branching point of nerves called C fibres. C fibers transmit low-grade sensory information over very long distances by using Merkel cells as intermediaries. It has been demonstrated that the acupuncture points show lower electrical resistance than other nearby areas of the skin and further studies are showing acupuncture points are locations where C fibers branch. Though the role of C fibers as part of our nervous system isn't fully understood, it is clear that stimulation of these fibers disrupts the sensation of pain and has a sedating effect.

https://www.actcm.edu/blog/acupuncture/new-scientific-breakthrough-proves-why-acupuncture-works/


John Hopkins's take on Acupuncture

"Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being." https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/complementary_and_alternative_medicine/acupuncture_85,P00171


Neuropeptides, Endorphins, and Neurotransmitters

Numerous studies are finding that acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters which has an effect on the autonomic responses of the body which leads to a reduced stress response and cortisol levels. These neurotransmitters can influence the our circadian rhythm, endocrine system, and overall sense of well being by enhancing the effects of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor treatments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26591679


The World Health Organization's take on AcupunctureDiseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved— through controlled trials—to be an effective treatment:

  1. Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy

  2. Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)

  3. Biliary colic

  4. Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)

  5. Dysentery

  6. Dysmenorrhoea

  7. Primary Epigastralgia

  8. Acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)

  9. Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)

  10. Headache

  11. Hypertension

  12. Essential Hypotension

  13. Primary Induction of labour

  14. Knee pain

  15. Leukopenia

  16. Low back pain

  17. Malposition of fetus

  18. Morning sickness

  19. Nausea and vomiting

  20. Neck pain

  21. Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)

  22. Periarthritis of shoulder

  23. Postoperative pain

  24. Renal colic

  25. Rheumatoid arthritis

  26. Sciatica

  27. Sprain

  28. Stroke

  29. Tennis elbow

Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

  1. Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)

  2. Acne vulgaris

  3. Alcohol dependence and detoxification

  4. Bell’s palsy

  5. Bronchial asthma

  6. Cancer pain

  7. Cardiac neurosis

  8. Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation

  9. Cholelithiasis

  10. Competition stress syndrome

  11. Craniocerebral injury, closed

  12. Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent

  13. Earache

  14. Epidemic haemorrhagic fever

  15. Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)

  16. Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection

  17. Female infertility

  18. Facial spasm

  19. Female urethral syndrome

  20. Fibromyalgia and fasciitis

  21. Gastrokinetic disturbance

  22. Gouty arthritis

  23. Hepatitis B virus carrier status

  24. Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)

  25. Hyperlipaemia

  26. Hypo-ovarianism

  27. Insomnia

  28. Labour pain

  29. Lactation, deficiency

  30. Male sexual dysfunction,

  31. non-organic Ménière disease

  32. Neuralgia, post-herpetic

  33. Neurodermatitis

  34. Obesity

  35. Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence

  36. Osteoarthritis Pain due to endoscopic examination

  37. Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans

  38. Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)

  39. Postextubation in children

  40. Postoperative convalescence

  41. Premenstrual syndrome Prostatitis,

  42. chronic Pruritus Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome

  43. Raynaud syndrome, primary

  44. Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection

  45. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy

  46. Retention of urine

  47. traumatic Schizophrenia

  48. Sialism, drug-induced

  49. Sjögren syndrome

  50. Sore throat (including tonsillitis)

  51. Spine pain,

  52. acute Stiff neck

  53. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

  54. Tietze syndrome

  55. Tobacco dependence

  56. Tourette syndrome

  57. Ulcerative colitis,

  58. chronic Urolithiasis

  59. Vascular dementia

  60. Whooping cough (pertussis)

https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-traditional-acupuncture/4026-who-list-of-conditions.html