Acupuncture Works

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