Acupuncture

Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

pain

Acupuncture is an ancient form of healthcare that originated in China at least 5,000 years ago. It has been practiced throughout the Asian world for many centuries. Acupuncture has been accepted into the Western mainstream culture since the 1970′s and is currently soaring in popularity throughout many parts of the Western hemisphere. Through the use of extremely fine needles, acupuncture works by manipulating the flow of Qi in the body, which is the life force or energy force that is present in all living things. Acupuncture theory suggests that there are 12 main meridians through which Qi flows. These meridians correspond to the major internal organs of the body. For instance, there is a liver meridian, a heart meridian, and so on. In each of these meridians, the Qi can become stagnant or deficient. StagnantQi means that there is a blockage or excess of energy, which can cause a variety of symptoms including pain, inflammation, headaches, high blood pressure, depression, and menstrual imbalances. Deficient Qi means that there isn’t enough functional energy within a given organ to perform its necessary duties. For instance, chronic diarrhea and fatigue can easily be caused by deficient Qi of the spleen.

Acupuncture therapy typically involves inserting needles into several acupoints, which are specific locations on the meridians where Qi is said to gather. By manipulating the flow of Qi on a given meridian, stagnant Qi can be dispersed and deficient Qi can be tonified. As a result, the symptoms that correspond to these underlying energetic imbalances should naturally improve. There are 365 acupoints on the 12 meridians, along with numerous ‘extra points’ that are located throughout the body. There are also microsystems such as the ear, eye, nose, and hand. Some acupuncturists will only use these specific areas regardless of the nature of the patient’s complaints.

From a Western biomedical perspective, acupuncture has been proven to release the neurotransmitter serotonin and beta-endorphins, opiate-like substances made by the brain. Serotonin balance is essential for emotional and mental health and has been linked to healthy eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and the degree of pain in the body. Beta-endorphins are analgesic and anti-inflammatory and are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’, which is why acupuncture can induce similar sensations.

ACUPUNCTURE-WESTERN THEORIES

  • Gate Control Theory – Acupuncture interrupts the transformation of pain being sent, but not received. Stimulation by an acupuncture needle bombards the neuron and stops the passage of stronger pain signals down the same nerve thus producing an analgesic effect. This is how acupuncture anesthesia can allow doctors to perform surgery on patients while they are awake.
  • Neurotransmitter Theory – Research shows that acupuncture increases Serotonin and Norepinephrine. A study conducted with fibromyalgia patients showed that after acupuncture serum Serotonin and Substance P (a neurotransmitter important in pain perception) significantly increased therefore decreasing the patients’ pain. Increased Serotonin can also help with depression, anxiety, addiction, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Serotonin levels are affected by sugar intake and low Serotonin levels may cause sugar cravings.
  • Immunity Theory – Acupuncture increases white blood cell count and has a regulatory effect on the immune system. Studies were conducted where patients’ blood was collected before and after an acupuncture treatment. White blood cells were significantly increased in the acupuncture group verses the control. Many diseases are linked to a weak immune system. If you are immunocompromised or just want to maintain your health acupuncture can supplement your body.
  • Immunity Theory – Acupuncture increases white blood cell count and has a regulatory effect on the immune system. Studies were conducted where patients’ blood was collected before and after an acupuncture treatment. White blood cells were significantly increased in the acupuncture group verses the control. Many diseases are linked to a weak immune system. If you are immunocompromised or just want to maintain your health acupuncture can supplement your body.
  • Endorphin Theory – As early as 1977, studies concluded that acupuncture triggers our bodies to release Endorphins, especially Enkephalins. Endorphins are our bodies’ natural pain killers. Studies have shown that patients had a significantly higher amount of endorphins in their cerebral spinal fluid after acupuncture.
  • Weight Loss Theory – Acupuncture helps regulate obesity related hormones, boosts metabolism and improves digestion. Research measuring the effectiveness of acupuncture on weight loss found that it increased hormones cholecystokinin (regulated diet and satiety) and ghrelin (regulates hunger), while decreasing insulin (regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism) and leptin (regulates hunger).

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