Acupuncture: Demystifying Pins & Needles
In cases of disease and disorder, the physician should first address diet and lifestyle. If that fails, then proceed to the more heroic modalities of acupuncture and herbs. –Sun Si Miao (581-682c.e)
Acupuncture, the puncturing of the body with ultra-fine needles, is the fifth and final pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This tool has been used and refined by countless doctors from China, Japan, and South Korea for over 2000 years. It is a long-held tenet within TCM that the best medicine begins with lifestyle and dietary changes and if these powerful tools fail to correct illness, then more invasive and ‘heroic’ tools like acupuncture must be employed to bring the body back to a healthy and balanced state.
According to TCM theory, the body contains 12 primary channel pathways connected to the various organs of the body and 8 extraordinary channels connected to the brain, sexual organs, nervous system, and mental/emotional centers of the brain, respectively. It is along these channels that acupoints are needled and manipulated in order to effect positive change within the body. After determining a Pattern diagnosis, a licensed acupuncturist will then select specific points to affect the desired change and direct the body towards homeostasis.
In America, acupuncture has, until shockingly recently, become decriminalized (1997 in Illinois), and steadily grown in popularity over the past several decades. The practice officially gained the attention of the federal government in 2018 when Veterans Affairs (VA) included acupuncture as part of their VHA Whole Health System and again in 2020 when Medicare included acupuncture for the treatment of lower back pain.
Over the past decade, scientific data on the efficacy of acupuncture for countless conditions such as infertility, anxiety, insomnia, pain syndromes, and stress has multiplied and shows encouraging results. Excitingly, more and more studies are being conducted showing the efficacy of acupuncture to treat over 117 different conditions (1, 2, 3).
Explaining how acupuncture works is still very much a work in progress; rest assured, there are many theories proposed based on the scientific data available. The primary theory hypothesizes that acupuncture regulates the endocrine system our biochemical signaling system. In fact, “several biochemical and signaling pathways have been identified as playing a direct role in how acupuncture achieves its clinical outcomes” (1).
Additionally, studies show that acupuncture directly affects the Central Nervous System (CNS). For example, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) resulting in muscle relaxation and the activation of normal organ functioning. Acupuncture has also shown to improve neuroplasticity, resulting in new nervous tissue patterning and downregulation of the limbic system, an important element in treating trauma syndromes such as PTSD (1).
Regardless of the mechanism of action, acupuncture may be a key component in a comprehensive treatment plan to help in your quest for physical, mental, and emotional health. If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you reestablish your health and get you back to enjoying a life you love please contact us at Mosaic Wellness.
For a thorough review of the scientific literature and conditions treated by acupuncture please visit: www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org
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