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Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that has been around for about 2,500 years. It is a complete and holistic system of medicine used to help treat illness and improve well-being. This is done by placing needles into specific points on the skin to help shift imbalances in the body’s energetic system.
Stress, environmental factors, lifestyle behaviors, and genetics are some of the things that can block qi (similar to energy) in the body. Through an extensive process of diagnosis, acupuncturists find areas of stagnation and insert needles superficially into your skin to activate that point or channel and stimulate the flow of qi and blood. Utilizing Chinese medicine we can guide our bodies to find balance and optimal health.
Both qi and blood are deeply impacted by everything we do in our daily lives and the sensitive nature of the two may easily become out of balance. The goal of your acupuncturist is to help restore that balance, nourish the body, and optimize overall health by utilizing all the tools available including acupuncture needles, dietary therapy, herbs, and additional modalities such as cupping, gua sha, bodywork, and moxibustion.
According to the western medical definition, acupuncture works in the following ways:
- Acupuncture promotes blood flow. Everything the body needs to heal is in the blood, including oxygen, nutrients we absorb from food, immune substances, hormones, analgesics (painkillers) and anti-inflammatories. Restoring proper blood flow is vital to promoting and maintaining health. Blood flow decreases as we age and can be impacted by trauma, injuries and disease. Acupuncture has been shown to restore and increase blood flow and vasodilation in several regions of the body.
- Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms. Acupuncture creates “micro traumas” that stimulate the body’s ability to spontaneously heal injuries to the tissue through immune, nervous and endocrine system activation. As the body heals the micro traumas induced by acupuncture, it also heals any surrounding tissue damage left over from old injuries.
- Acupuncture releases natural painkillers. Inserting a needle sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released.
- Acupuncture reduces both the intensity and perception of chronic pain. It does this through a process called “descending control normalization”, which involves the serotonergic nervous system.
- Acupuncture reduces stress. Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. You’ve probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response that is governed by the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest-and-digest” system, and in many ways is the opposite of the sympathetic system. Recent research has implicated impaired parasympathetic function in a wide range of autoimmune diseases.