How does acupuncture work?

One of the most common questions I hear is “how does it work?” Oh the mystery! I’m often tempted to pull out Legos to enact a scene of what happens inside the body during acupuncture. Maybe I will make that a youtube video one day…

In the meantime, here’s a simple breakdown of how acupuncture works:

Acupuncture is a system of medicine that uses specific points to activate the body’s own healing mechanisms. An acupuncturist may activate these points in different ways. Here are just a few:

  • inserting needles into the skin
  • applying pressure with fingertips or a fine point tool (acupressure)
  • warming the point with heat or an herb called Moxa
  • using mini suction cups to draw out toxins from a specific area

When a point is stimulated, we’re activating the nervous system; nerves and white blood cells that make up your immune system perk up and say, “Woah! Something’s going on! Wake up! Let’s get moving!”

What we’re aiming for when we activate these points is qi (“chee”). Qi is what the ancient Chinese described as our basic life force; it’s what allows us to wake up every day and keeps us moving and breathing and functioning. Qi travels along pathways called meridians. You can think of meridians like riverbeds that keep our blood and fluids circulating throughout our body. Sometimes meridians get blocked like a river blocked by a dam. This can put a damper on the daily functioning of your qi, or energy level. You may feel sick, run down, exhausted, out of sorts, off kilter, overwhelmed, tense, or in pain. When your body feels over-taxed,  your nervous system is on alert, your adrenaline kicks in, and your immune system works on overdrive trying to get you back to balance.

In simple terms, activating specific points helps calm the nervous system and allow the body’s nourishment-packed immunity boosting fluids to circulate smoothly and get their job done. Since acupuncture is about restoring balance, it can be used to address a wide range of imbalances, from back pain to digestive issues. Here’s a link to one of my previous blogs, “9 reasons to try acupuncture that you may not have known about”.

Still curious and want to dig into it more? Here are a couple of links explaining more about the ins-and-outs of the mechanisms that make acupuncture work.

No matter how we explain it, this amazing medicine is still mysterious; even science hasn’t fully grasped it yet. As Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science.”

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