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How Does Acupuncture Actually Work?

Acupuncture: Why (And How) Does It Work?


May 23, 2017

Acupuncture is an ancient medical intervention dating back thousands of years, yet it’s still used widely today. The age-old discipline evolved through years of observation and creativity, as well as experimentation. IT works by stimulating certain specific and non-specific points, called Ashi points, on the body. Despite it’s popularity, people often don’t understand how it works: these are some of the most common questions I get.

Are the Needles Long?

Acupuncture is generally performed using specialized needles of various lengths and sizes—but they’re really nothing to worry about as they’re extremely fine needles you can barely feel.

The needles penetrate the skin to various depths, to alleviate pain or to address health conditions, according to a Chinese medical diagnosis. This will follow a thorough assessment or consultation and different stimuli are employed during the treatment itself to stimulate various points of the body. These can include acupressure techniques, lasers, sound, electric frequency, herbal injections and different frequencies of light.

Is There Any Research About Acupuncture’s Effectiveness?

Numerous studies have been carried out to prove or disprove the effectiveness of acupuncture for medical reasons. Of course, the scientific evidence keeps revealing new information regarding bio neuro-chemicals and other factors. This may mean acupuncture is a viable option.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture points are located on trajectories that are carriers of vital energy interconnecting and interfering with all aspects of our body and mind.

How Do You Manipulate The Energy?

This energy can be regulated near the surface of the body by several channels or meridians. These connect hundreds of acupuncture points as a network of information from and to the body and brain and each point will have an effect on the organs and glands. They may also affect the lymphatic, circulatory and nervous systems, as well as the bones, joints, muscles and tissues, the skin, immune and digestive systems, and emotional and cognitive functions of the patient.

Recent studies claim that specific neural pathways transmit acupuncture stimulation to distant body areas via the central nervous system, which may support the traditional meridian system. There is a histological or anatomical distinction regarding these energy pathways, as they can now be identified with various tools, such as electrical conductivity amongst the different channels. This is supported by the National Science Council in Taiwan.

How Can It Really Help Me?

Acupuncture remains a controversial field of research and more studies are being conducted to explain the existence of the technique today. One is via the modern physiology field, with “neural hypothesis” being recommended. Scientists claim that this is trigger transmission, primarily through stimulation of sensory nerves that stimulates signals to the brain, which response with a certain biofeedback in response to the treatment.

A study with over 18,000 volunteers—from the Archives of Internal Medicine (2012)—suggests that acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating chronic pain. Similar research suggests that acupuncture has a strong effect on pain due to its natural stimulation of the body’s own endorphins: serotonin, cortisol, ACTH, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating factors.

On top of this, further papers claim that acupuncture may stimulate self-regulatory body mechanisms, independent of the treatment’s objective, points, means or methods used. This would, of course, account for acupuncture’s reported benefits in a huge variety of pathologic conditions.


Acupuncture and meditation seem to go well together: try this quick 5-minute meditation.
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