How does Acupuncture Work?
When you get an acupuncture treatment for back pain, your back pain will go away but it’s also likely that you’ll see improvements in other areas. The headaches you’ve had for years will get better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll be better able to handle stress, and you’ll sleep better.
Acupuncture reboots the brain, sort of like jumping a car battery.
Acupuncture increases the blood flow into the targeted part of the body. The acupuncture has a vasodilator effect on the area of pain and therefore increases blood flow into the targeted area.
- Decreases pain
- Decreases inflammation
- Regulates immunity
- Restores the body homeostasis (steady internal conditions)
- Relaxes muscle spasms
- Decreases stress
- Stimulates bone regrowth
The body has corrective mechanisms that release pain-relieving chemicals that the body produces. When an area is injured, the brain will cause increased blood flow into the arteries, which brings nutrients, and oxygen into the damaged area, so that it can heal quickly. Better blood flow also results in better extraction of “trash” or metabolites that need to be removed.
The blood contains natural internal painkillers, anti-inflammatory substances, nutrients, oxygen, hormones and immune factors.
In chronic pain, the corrective mechanism is not working right. This mechanism is conducted mainly by the midbrain. If the signal strength of the nerves that register the location of the pain is correct, the brain releases natural internal painkillers (enkephalins) which stop the pain. In chronic pain, the signal strength is too weak and the brain can’t tell where the pain is coming from. So the natural painkillers are not released. The nerves keep firing and the signal weakens even more.
Needles are placed in very specific points on you that affect similar areas in your midbrain and cerebral cortex as your back, neck or other painful body part. We are stimulating neural responses in the brain that are related to your painful back or neck or (or whatever hurts). This increase in signal strength forces the brain to wake up and do it’s job which is to increase the release of your body’s own natural painkillers as well as to vasodilate the arteries of your shoulder area, so it gets nutrients and can heal. By carefully selected acupuncture points, the acupuncture needles stimulate the midbrain, which results in vasodilation. Hence, acupuncture is rebooting the nervous system.
The second issue with pain is a survival mechanism from the distant past. If we bang our leg, and the brain assumes the worst-case scenario from the days of being chased by bears and wild animals, bitten by snakes, etc. The brain can cut the blood flow to protect the injury from blood loss, or to reduce the spread of poison or infection. This results in “guarding” the injured part and causes stiffness and weakness.
The response to acupuncture is fast, but a series of treatments are needed to re-establish healthy response. The body, just like our minds, can have a hard time breaking bad habits.
Acupuncture is a highly effective non-invasive, non- drug treatment of choice. 90% of chronic pain is neuropathic pain, and acupuncture is very often the treatment of choice. Only about 10% of chronic pain is structural in nature and requires surgery.
In the infrared camera thermographic pictures below, we can see higher temperatures in the body after a 45 minute acupuncture treatment, which is indicative of improved blood flow.