Western Medical Understanding of Acupuncture: Western Science confirms the effectiveness of acupuncture and how it works. The human body has 2 primary methods of controlling and regulating itself. These are the nervous system and the endocrine system. The brain, spine, and other nerves make up the nervous system, an electrical system similar to the wiring in a home or computer. The endocrine system is a system of chemical signals that uses hormones and neurotransmitters to send signals instead of electrical impulses. Both of these systems give the brain information about how the body is functioning. They also allow the brain to then control the rest of the body and do things like digest food, breathe, and move.
Various studies and tests (blood tests, MRI, etc.) indicate thatacupuncture stimulates these chemical and electrical controls of the body. This is how acupuncture is able to alleviate pain, balance the emotions (neurotransmitter levels), relax muscles, stimulate the immune system, etc. The most important effect of acupuncture it to increase blood circulation. It is this increase in blood flow that allows acupuncture to treat so many diverse conditions. Adequate blood flow means nutrients get delivered to all of the cells, organs, and tissues of the body. Blood flow also removes toxins and metabolic wastes from these cells and tissues.
Because acupuncture works with the body’s own control systems by balancing them rather than artificially altering their function or adding a pharmaceutical agent, the body is actually improved and balanced, and the healing is done by and in concert with the natural flow of human function.
Traditional Understanding of Acupuncture: Rather than identify the millions of individual chemicals and thousands of nerve connections and pathways, Traditional Chinese Medicine considers the body as one unit. The body functions are carried out by Qi (functional activity of the body), and Blood (including all body fluids). The Qi and Blood nourish and fill the organs, bones, and muscles. All of the bodies functions are understood in terms of 12 organ systems and their meridians. Each of these 12 include not only a specific organ but also particular body functions, emotions, and physical regions of the body as well. For example the Lung system includes the Lung organ, the sense of smell, the emotion of grief, the skin in general, and its physical region is a portion of the inner arm beginning near the nipple and extending along the arm to the thumb. These 12 systems or meridians have numerous specific interconnections and relationships that define the function and health of the human body. It is the understanding of these 12 systems and their interrelationships that forms the theoretical basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.
When treating the meridians with acupuncture, pain and other dysfunctions are balanced and eliminated. Because the meridians are electrical channels, the acupuncture needles act as conductors, they stimulate the nervous and immune systems, and increase blood flow. This in turn balances and improves the body’s overall function and health.