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How does acupuncture work?

Chinese Medicine and western scientific medicine look at the body in completely different ways so the answer varies depending on the view taken.

Western Perspective
From a western scientific perspective research points to acupuncture primarily producing its effects via the nervous system, which in turn stimulates the hormonal endocrine system to release pain-killing endorphins, and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The neurotransmitters are the body's own self-regulators which have powerful effects on digestion, breathing, circulation, the nervous system as well as immunity, metabolic rate, blood pressure, body temperature, sleep and mood.

Scientific Evidence
Functional MRI scans show that when acupuncture points known to treat eye problems are stimulated, the visual cortex in the brain is stimulated. Similarly, points used to treat ear problems stimulate the auditory areas of the brain. Modern research using the latest technology is being carried out, not just by acupuncturists but, by physicists and neuroscientists at Harvard and other highly respected medical schools.

Traditional Chinese Medical Perspective
In the Chinese system of medicine the focus is on health, which exists when the myriad of dynamic processes within the body are functioning within self-regulating norms. The terms yin and yang are used to describe this dynamic. Disease results when the body cannot maintain the dynamic balance of yin and yang, either temporarily as with a cold or flu, or more chronically with conditions that build over a period of time. This imbalance leads to blockages in the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”, meaning vital energy) along pathways known as meridians.

Qi, Blood and Meridians
It is essential for qi and blood to circulate in a continuous and unobstructed flow for good health of the mind and body. Acupuncture meridians or channels are the pathways through which the energy spreads throughout the body, in the same way that a network of rivers and streams irrigate the land. Acupuncture points lie along the meridians and are the places that allow the qi to be influenced - redirected, increased and unblocked - correcting many of the body’s imbalances.

This may not explain how acupuncture works, much is still unknown, but I hope goes some way to bridging the gap between two different approaches. The language of Chinese Medicine may be strange to the western scientific mind but its wisdom is profound and it works.

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