Acupuncture Santa Cruz of Capitola

How acupuncture works


How Acupuncture Works

Acupunc­ture stim­u­lates points on the body that send bio­elec­tric sig­nals to the brain. This is known as the cor­ti­cal mod­el for under­stand­ing the func­tion of acupunc­ture. The elec­tri­cal prop­er­ties of acupunc­ture points are mea­sur­able with elec­tri­cal meter­ing devices and the cor­re­spond­ing changes to brain func­tion are mea­sur­able with two types of MRIs (PET scans, fMRIs).

Sig­nals at the acupunc­ture points are known to cre­ate spe­cif­ic bod­i­ly reac­tions. Using this knowl­edge, an acupunc­tur­ist can stim­u­late the endocrine sys­tem (the body’s bio­chem­i­cal pro­duc­tion sys­tem) to pro­duce sub­stances to address a wide vari­ety of con­di­tions. For exam­ple, some points cre­ate reac­tions that pre­vent cer­tain types of par­a­sites and virus­es from repro­duc­ing. Oth­er points stim­u­late endor­phins to cre­ate an anal­gesic effect while also stim­u­lat­ing oth­er bod­i­ly chem­i­cals to engage wound heal­ing. This is one of the ways an acupunc­tur­ist stim­u­lates the process of nerve and tis­sue repair.

Take a look at the fas­ci­nat­ing image above. The chief radi­ol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine mea­sured the effects of sev­er­al points. This MRI image is of the brain upon stim­u­la­tion of point SJ5 that has known to ben­e­fit hear­ing for over a thou­sand years. SJ5 is locat­ed near the wrist. The image com­pares the brain’s reac­tion to sound with the brain’s reac­tion to the stim­u­la­tion of SJ5. As shown in the image, the reac­tions are strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar. This exper­i­ment has been repeat­ed at many oth­er points and shows that acupunc­ture points engage the brain’s response sys­tems to engage in spe­cif­ic heal­ing process­es.


A Long History of Research and Support

The NIH (Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health) con­clud­ed that acupunc­ture is ben­e­fi­cial in the treat­ment of (NIH, v15, #5, 1997; p19):

Low­er back pain
Myofas­cial Pain
Carpal Tun­nel Syn­drome
Ten­nis Elbow
Post-Oper­a­tive Den­tal Pain
Stroke Reha­bil­i­ta­tion
Post-Oper­a­tive Nau­sea and Vom­it­ing
Chemother­a­py Nau­sea and Vom­it­ing

A fol­low-up study by the NIH also shows sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits in the treat­ment of osteoarthri­tis in the knee (NCCAOM, Dr. Straus, 2004). He notes that “acupunc­ture reduces the pain and func­tion­al impair­ment of osteoarthri­tis of the knee.”

There are many stud­ies show­ing the ben­e­fi­cial effects of acupunc­ture. Look for­ward to future posts con­cern­ing some of the lat­est stud­ies. To get start­ed on this top­ic of new research, the fol­low­ing study was com­plet­ed in 2011 and not­ed that acupunc­ture “can sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve the effi­ca­cy on autism, effec­tive­ly relieve child autism symp­toms and enhance the intel­li­gence, lan­guage abil­i­ty and social adap­tive abil­i­ty.”1 This study does not sug­gest that acupunc­ture cures autism. How­ev­er, it demon­strates that it is very help­ful to those who suf­fer from autism. In anoth­er study researchers con­clud­ed, “The data sug­gest that GV20 acupunc­ture treat­ment increas­es cere­bral blood flow. The results of this small-scale study pro­vide pre­lim­i­nary evi­dence for acupunc­ture effec­tive­ness.”2 The research demon­strat­ed that acupunc­ture at acu­point GV20 (DU20, Hun­dred Meet­ings, Bai­hui) increas­es blow flow to the brain with­out rais­ing arte­r­i­al blood pres­sure or pulse rate.

1 Zhong­guo Zhen Jiu. 2011 Aug;31(8):692–6. Treat­ment of autism with scalp acupunc­ture. Li N, Jin BX, Li JL, Liu ZH. Neu­ro-Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Depart­ment, Nan­hai Women and Chil­dren Hos­pi­tal Affil­i­at­ed to Guangzhou Uni­ver­si­ty of CM, Guang­dong, Chi­na.

2 Hyung-sik Byeon, Sang-kwan Moon, Seong-uk Park, Woo-sang Jung, Jung-mi Park, Chang-nam Ko, Ki-ho Cho, Young-suk Kim and Hyung-sup Bae. The Jour­nal of Alter­na­tive and Com­ple­men­tary Med­i­cine. March 2011, 17(3): 219–224.

NIH Research