Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles at specific point locations on the skin. The tiny hair-thin needles act as a catalyst to create positive change in the body. By stimulating the body's ability to heal, acupuncture can relieve symptoms of disease and promote health. The selection of points used depends on each patient's diagnosis and is determined by the acupuncturist.
Point locations are mapped out by a system of channels that run along the body. Acupuncture point locations, charted over thousands of years of practical experience, can be found through palpation by the acupuncturist combing knowledge of channels and human anatomy. Because the points have less electrical resistance than surrounding tissue, acupuncture points can also be found by measuring electrical resistance on the surface of the skin. Modern research has shown that acupuncture points are also areas with a high concentration of nerve endings, mast cells (for immune function), lymphatic vessels and capillaries.
A trigger point is a term for a tender, palpable area of muscle tissue that has become chronically contracted. These knots can refer pain to distant areas.
An area of muscle where the thickest part of the muscle spindle is and where the main nerve enervation occurs. A motor point is also the site of the least electrical resistance of a given muscle. These areas often overlap with traditional acupuncture point locations.
Qi is translated as vitality or life force, it is energy at its most basic and its most complex. Qi is what makes our heart beat, it is activity, function, the food we eat and the air we breathe.
How Acupuncture Works
Traditional Chinese Explanation
According to acupuncture theory, when Qi stops moving correctly through the body symptoms of disease occur. Acupuncture works by harmonizing the movement of Qi in the body. Qi moves throughout the body, and the main pathways for the movement of Qi are called meridians or channels. By inserting the needle at certain acupuncture points, the Qi is affected at distant parts of the body via the channels. The points are like gates or windows to the interior of our bodies. If you open the front door and the back window you can generate a breeze that clears out the musty interior of a house. Acupuncture works in the same way, by using a point on your hand and a point on your foot you can generate movement to clear out the blockage that is causing your symptoms.
The complete mechanism of acupuncture is multifaceted and still being investigated. In biomedicine, a number of theories exist to explain the healing capabilities of acupuncture, including Chemical, Structural and Electromagnetic.
The acupuncture needle elicits a biochemical cascade of events; from the site of the needle, signals are sent to the brain to release natural pain killing substances into the blood stream. These substances include endorphins, such as the Opioid Dynorphin, natural mood enhancers such as Serotonin, and various hormones and neurotransmitters.
Acupuncture can relieve pain by needling the trigger and motor points. The needle causes a localized jump or fasciculation (contraction) in the muscle. The fasciculation and full contraction force the muscle to a post-excitation relaxation response. The needle allows the muscle to relax allowing for better blood flow and healing.
This is the most comprehensive explanation for the long-term effects of acupuncture, and also the most difficult to research and evaluate. Acupuncture points may be primary sites of conduction for electromagnetic signals throughout the body. By affecting the acupuncture point we can change the flow of electrical energy in the body. Although complicated, Electromagnetic Theory is most closely aligned with the Chinese theory of Qi.