How Does Acupuncture Work?
By: Michael E. Costa
The number one question I get from patients is: How does acupuncture work? They will often ask during a treatment once they start to feel the effect of pain relief and a deep sense of relaxation.
Most articles I have found on the subject either give a classical view of acupuncture using terminology that is foreign to most westerners or they focus on effects that occur in the body as result of receiving an acupuncture treatment. The most clearly documented physiological effect of acupuncture is the release of endogenous opioid peptides. These are pain relieving compounds that are naturally produced within the body such as endorphins, enkaphalins, and dynorphins. Dr. Zang-Hee Cho, a medical physicist and professor at the University of California, has also shown with the aid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that certain area of the brain are influenced by the insertion of acupuncture points on the body. There are also various theories that involve the nervous system such as the gate theory.
Before we go any further, I would like to introduce a concept from quantum physic that all matter, once thought to be solid, is really composed of nothing more than pulsating, energetic vibrations. Qi (pronounced Chi) the Chinese term for the energy present in all matter. Qi as defined by the Chinese for thousand of years describes the phenomenon described by quantum physic today that solid matter is nothing more than vibrating strings of energy.
Acupuncture regulates the flow of energy or qi through the body by inserting fine needles at certain acupuncture points in the body that lie along organized pathways called meridians. The acupuncture points and meridian pathways coincide with the points on the surface of the body where there is lowered electrical resistance and and greater electrical conductivity, according to measurements of many scientists. This flow of energy that circulates through the meridians acts as a communication network that promotes healing and normal function of the body's systems.
We must also consider the intricate network of connective tissue, known as the fascial system. The fascial system literally connect everything in the body. You trace any one point on the body to any other point in the body running up or down or outside to inside. The meridians also travel up and down the body and from exterior to interior connecting to their associated organs. The fascia and connective tissue have been shown to conduct energy and could be the biophysical basis for the communication system affected by acupuncture and moxibustion. Dr. Yoshio Nagahama and Hiroshi Motoyama, Ph.D, two leading researchers form Japan, have independently concluded that the meridian system does in fact lie in the superficial fascia.
Another concept that provide an additional explanation of the movement of energy through the body if the research of the Bjorn Nordenstrom. His discovered that an electrical current is transmitted though the circulatory system via ionic transfers and and difference of electrical potential in the tissue-capillary bed. It well documented that acupuncture increases micro-circulation at the site of needle insertion. The increased circulation as a result of acupuncture has a positive effect on the electrical transmission discovered by Nordenstrom.
Another discovery that has profound implication is the discovery of bio-photons by German biophysicist Fritz-Albert Popp. Biophotons are weak emissions of light that are radiated from the cells of all living things. Research has shown that there is bio-communication that occurs between different organisms through biophoton emission and that the biophoton field reflects biological rhythms as well as left-right symmetry of corresponding points in the case of healthy individuals. Healthy cells will also have a different biophotonic signature than the same type cell that is unhealthy or in a disease state. This important discovery provides another explanation for the communication that occurs throughout the body as a result of acupuncture and moxibustion and the absence of physical structure that corresponds with the meridian system.
I have presented three mechanisms through which is energy is transmitted through body. It is likely that acupuncture and moxibustion facilitate the flow of energy through all three mechanisms presented in this article. As the fields of quantum physics and biophysics advance, we are sure to uncover more about the essence of how acupuncture and moxibustion create beneficial changes in the body.
Matsumoto, Kiiko and Birch, Stephen. Hara Diagnosis:Reflections on the Sea. Massachusetts: Paradigm Publications, 1988.
Maccioca, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1989