Obviously any system of medicine is complex and can’t be fully explained in a few sentences but I’ll try to bring the basics to the fore. According to TCM theory the human body has an intricate network of 14 energy channels that traverse the surface of the body- they are called meridians. The energy that flows through the meridians is called Qi pronounced “chi”.
In TCM Qi is the essential element, it is known as life force or vital energy, it pervades every part of us and it is this energy that allows our body to heal and regenerate. When then the Qi is flowing freely and evenly through the 14 meridians we are healthy, happy and vital.
Conversely when the flow of Qi is blocked or not in balance between the meridians, symptoms of poor health arise. Think of a hose carrying water from the tap but it has 14 hoses connected to it- like an irrigation system. The tap is on at one end and the water pours out the 14 hoses evenly. Unless there are kinks or blockages in the hoses. The aim of the acupuncture is to remove these kinks or impedences to the normal flow of Qi along the meridians, restores the normal harmonious flow- which then aims to restore health and wellbeing.
How acupuncture works
Acupuncture is a unique system of health care that is an integral part of a larger system of medicine known as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This natural form of medicine has been utilized for thousands of years and is based on the flow of vital energy through the body known as “qi”.
Acupuncture works by manipulating or balancing the qi within the patient.
I often like to think of acupuncture working like a tune-up. Like tuning a musical instrument or tuning up a car back to the manufactures specifications. In this way allowing the body to get back to it’s optimum performance.
There isn’t a single theory that can clearly explain all the effects of acupuncture. However, there are a number of scientific theories that describe the different effects that occur during acupuncture treatment.
- Augmentation of Immunity Theory. Acupuncture has been shown to raise the levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globins, opsonins, and overall antibody levels to increase immune function and resistance to disease.
- Endorphin Theory. Acupuncture stimulates the release of encephalins (a type of endorphin), which aids in pain relief and conditions of addiction.
- Neurotransmitter Theory. Acupuncture can effect the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones (such as serotonin and noradrenaline) which relieve pain, treat psycho-emotional conditions and promote feelings of general well being.
- Circulatory Theory. Acupuncture can constrict or dilate blood vessels by influencing the release of histamine. This helps in controlling inflammation, musculoskeletal pain, as well as hyper/hypotension.
- Gate Control Theory. Acupuncture is used as a form of analgesia because it can overwhelm small C fibres in the nervous system. This effectively ‘shuts the gate’ to the part of the nervous system which perceives pain.
- Motor Gate Theory. Acupuncture can also ‘open a stuck gate’ in conditions of paralysis by activating spindle cells in the anterior horn. This brings about muscle contraction and can be useful in motor recovery.