How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture has been an effective system of healing in Asia for well over 3000 years, and is one of the most accepted oriental therapies here in the West. Treatment is focussed on the person, rather than the disease as each person is individual and unique. Two people may both suffer from migraines, but the root cause of symptoms and the treatment needed may be very different for each person.  Oriental medicine has the tools both to identify the root cause and to treat the symptoms appropriately, and encourages the body's own self-healing and regulatory functions. The benefits of acupuncture therefore frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can lead to increased energy levels, better appetite and sleep, as well as an overall sense of well being.

The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy (Qi) run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others. Needling acupuncture points can unblock the obstructions and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatment can help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in digestion, absorption, and energy.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release endorphins and other chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other substances and hormones, which influence the body's internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulation of the body's natural healing abilities.

Please also see the British Acupuncture Council website for more about the latest research on Acupuncture.