How does Acupuncture work?

By Caren Chen, Nine Life Land Acupuncture Clinic

Acupuncture treatment, which has a history of over 5000 years, is mainly based on the theory of Meridians, one of the branches of the theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The meridians form a bridge to facilitate communication between internal organ systems (liver, heart, spleen, lung, kidney, gallbladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine, bladder) and outer realms like bones, tendons, muscles and skin. That’s why  acupuncture is able to treat such  a wide range of conditions.

 World Health Organisation have published reports on clinical trials researching the effectiveness of acupuncture . ( / search publications/ acupuncture).  Acupuncture has been proved – through controlled trials—to be an effective treatment for pain (chronic and acute, muscular,skeletal, visceral or neural), digestive imbalances, women's and men’s health, anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc.

How does acupuncture work? The flow of qi through the meridians, just like the flow of water through a stream, could be blocked off by an obstruction - a dam across the waterway. In the streams, this might be a fallen tree or a mud slide; in humans, it might be caused by something striking the body, like coldness, tiredness, ingestion of improper food, etc. When a stream is blocked, it floods above the blockage, and below the blockage it dries up. If one goes to the point of blockage and clears it away, then the stream can resume its natural course. In a like manner, if the qi in the meridian becomes blocked, the condition of the body becomes disordered like the flooding and dryness. When   acupuncture removes the blockage from the flow of qi within a meridian, the natural flow is restored.

From the perspective of modern medicine, diseases and injuries are resolved by a complex set of responses; the responses are coordinated by several signaling systems. The signaling systems mainly involve peptides and other small biochemicals that are released at one site, travel to other sites, interact with cells, and stimulate various biologically programmed responses. Rather than blockages of circulation described in TCM, diseases are understood to be caused by microorganisms, metabolic failures, changes in DNA structure or signaling, or breakdown of the immune system. Modern studies have showed that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, and stimulate one or more of the signaling systems, which can, under certain circumstances, increase the rate of healing response. This could be sufficient to help with a disease, or reduce its impact by alleviating some symptoms. This can explain most of the clinical effects of acupuncture therapy.