The fact of the matter is that acupuncture does work, and has been shown to do so, but the exact answer as to how it works is unclear. The current scientific explanations give a logical and supportable basis for stating that it does have an effect on the nervous system, but it is difficult to draw any more definite conclusions.
Currently, there is not one western scientific theory that collaboratively explains all of the physiological mechanisms underlying the effects of Acupuncture. This is because Acupuncture has a variety of therapeutic effects on the body thus the action must vary depending on the type of pathology.
The most popular modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells in the muscles, nerves cells, spinal cord, pituitary gland, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. These affect the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, thereby boosting immune reactions and regulating processes that control a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
In summary, scientists have deduced a number of theories from observing a number of individual clinical effects of acupuncture treatment. These theories and the observed clinical effects on which the theories are based can be summarised as the following:
- Augmentation of Immunity Theory – Increased Immune Function & Disease Resistance
- Endorphin Theory – Reduction of Pain
- Neurotransmitter Theory – Inflammation Reduction & Prome Feelings of Well Being
- Circulatory Theory – Improved Circulation & Smooth Muscle Relaxation
- Gate Control Theory – Increased Pain Tolerance
- Motor Gate Theory – Hasten Motor Recovery from Paralysis
- Homeostatic/Regulatory Effect – Regulate Homeostasis to Disease/Abnormal Conditions
- Bioelectric Theory – Stimulation of cells of tissue growth & repair
- Nervous System Theory – Central nervous system, spinal & peripheral nerve stimulation