The most common questions I get from my patient’s on a daily basis are about acupuncture and what the benefits are...so lets talk about it!
Acupunctures theory and practice originated in China, and eventually was brought into Western medicine where it was studied to further understand its mechanisms. By inserting thin needles into the body, acupuncture can be used to target individual muscles, nerves, or the entire nervous system!
Here are five mechanisms that explain the phenomena of acupuncture📍
1) Local Effects📍 - When the acupuncture needle is inserted, it stimulates nerve fibres in the skin and muscle, which then set off an internal signal & reactions releasing various substances and chemicals. The substances released by the body cause the local blood vessels (in the area of the needle) to dilate which increased local blood flow. This blood flow is also increased in deeper tissues which encourages tissue healing.
The take home: Acupuncture promotes local healing.
2) Segmental Analgesia 👣 - When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the body, the same internal signal (known as an action potential) travels up the nerve directly to a specific part of the spinal cord and depresses the pain sensor. This effect is the main mechanism by which acupuncture relieves pain - which is a common use for acupuncture. Acupuncture inhibits pain from any part of the body which sends nerves to that particular segment on the spinal cord.
The take home: Acupuncture reduces pain in the segment where the needles are inserted.
3) Extra-segmental Analgesia 🧠 - Moving on from the segmental analgesia, the action potential produced by the acupuncture needle then travels on from the spinal cord up to the brainstem - which stimulates the body’s own pain suppressing mechanisms (ex. neurotransmitters). This type of analgesia may not be powerful enough to suppress pain altogether - but every little bit helps.
The take home: Acupuncture reduces pain throughout the body.
4) Central Regulatory Effects 💆🏽♀️ - After reaching the brainstem/ midbrain, the action potential from the needle goes on to influence various other structures in the brain that are responsible for regulating the body. This is why acupuncture patients become more cheerful, calm, less stressed and overall more positive after treatment. Acupuncture has other important regulatory effects and is well know for reducing nausea in pregnant women, reducing menstrual cycle cramps, and improving sleep quality.
The take home: Acupuncture has a calming effect and improves wellbeing
5) Myofascial Trigger Points 💥- Commonly known as ‘knots’, these tight & tender points in muscles can become a nuisance day to day and can cause some referred pain of their own. Inserting needles into these points has all the benefits of the topics discussed above and can provide immediate relief.
The take home: Acupuncture inactivates myofascial trigger points.
As an acupuncture provider myself, this is one of my favourite treatment techniques as it is a unique way to get a handle on pain & promote healing and well-being. The relief I see from my patients reassures me that acupuncture is an extremely beneficial treatment option with immediate and lasting effects. 😁🙋🏽♀️
Have you every gotten an acupuncture treatment? Are you willing to try? Please do not hesitate to ask any questions!