Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which originated around 3,000 years ago in China. It is part of a complete medical system that can treat all conditions when combined with herbs, cupping and Tuina. In recent years, acupuncture has rapidly increased in popularity. Research is continuously being carried out and more light is being shed on its mechanism of action. Many clinical studies are being funded and western medicine is beginning to embrace and scientifically understand how this ancient system of medicine works, as well as its far-reaching benefits. Acupuncture aims to both maintain health and treat disease. It is carried out by placing fine needles at specific points on the body called acupuncture points. These needles are as thin as a hair, sterile and disposed of after a single use; they are placed along a system of "channels" on the front and back of the body that are linked with organ systems.
Treating the root cause
These acupuncture points are chosen based on a thorough intake that identifies the root cause of the issue and treats corresponding "channels" and "meridians" that connect with inner organ systems in order to restore balance. In all energy based medicine, the concept of energetic blockage preceding physical blockage is the foundation of the approach. Treating the root cause of illness offers a chance at fixing the broken mechanism effectively rather than symptom chasing which may only temporarily fix the issue.
A Holistic Approach
Acupuncture is considered a holistic medicine because it combines the treatment of the mind and body. The mind influences the body and vice versa- treating them as one makes sense in order to achieve lasting results. Acupuncture can be used as a preventative medicine to preserve health and prevent illness. Modern medicine could use a paradigm shift in its approach, as it is much easier to maintain health than it is to treat illness once the damage is done - not to mention considerably less expensive!!
Give the Body the Tools to Heal Itself
Acupuncture is completely natural and does not involve any drugs or medication. It works by stimulating the body to heal itself, using its own resources and it is known to influence the body and the brain in a number of different ways. When the needles are inserted into the skin, the nervous system registers this as a micro-injury. This triggers the brain to release chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins are produced naturally by the body but they work in a similar way to opiate medication. They relieve pain and produce a feeling of calm and well-being.
Acupuncture points have also been found to be in areas with a high concentration of blood vessels. Needling them improves circulation, increases the rate at which oxygen is supplied to the muscles and organs and speeds up the excretion of toxins. It reduces inflammation, regulates hormone levels and benefits the immune and digestive systems. It also relaxes the muscles and relieves stiffness and discomfort. Acupuncture points are also found to be in areas of major nerve pathways. When used with electric stimulation, they provide a direct way to communicate with the brain through nerve fibers. They have far reaching effects, which current research is heavily focused on. Acupuncture with electric stimulation can down regulate our immune system through the autonomic nervous system. It can also modulate pain signaling along the nerve pathways and lessen the perception of pain over time. The pain cycle in chronic pain is also directly linked with a sort of " faulty wiring" in which the body keeps sending pain messages to the brain and the brain is stuck on a loop. Breaking this signaling is also key in re-establishing appropriate pain response.
As well as relieving pain and improving many physical symptoms, acupuncture also benefits mental health. It regulates the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and improves the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also affects the wavelengths at which the brain functions in a similar way to deep meditation (theta brainwaves). This helps to reduce stress and improve sleep. Stress in itself is a contributing factor to many illnesses and by relieving it, the body is given a chance to recover and to heal itself. Acupuncture provides this opportunity along with a whole host of other benefits for both the body and the mind.