Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Learn about the science behind the treatment, how acupuncture is beneficial for stress and why now is a great time to use it
"Acupuncture relieves pain, relaxes the nervous system and muscles, promotes healthy circulation & blood flow and reduces inflammation"
As we all have experienced, stress or trauma can wreak havoc on our emotional and mental state. Stress can come in the form of day to day demands, finances, working long hours , or processing world events that are out of our control. In fact, in more situations than not, we are faced with demands and responsibility.
You can think of small and large stress factors as pressure that continues to fill up our system like a balloon, over time becoming hyper-inflated. When the "balloon" is too full, our minds become overactive, our nervous system ramped up making us hyper-reactive and you guessed it, the body responds with inflammation.
In Chinese medicine, this analogy is an illustration of what is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation. The liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of "Qi" or energy in the body and the regulation of emotions. When emotions are out of balance and stress builds up, stagnation of Qi occurs. Our body's energy is what circulates the blood, therefore, healthy blood circulation depends on the healthy flow of Qi.
Emotional signs of Qi Stagnation are feeling sad, worried, depressed or anxious. When the energy stagnates, we can feel unmotivated, scattered or unable to execute tasks without feeling bogged down.
Physical signs of Qi stagnation are sighing frequently, feeling bloated, having issues sleeping, chronic pain in the body, tightness of the muscles, headaches, low energy, hormonal imbalance, cold hands and feet, burping, and any form of inflammation.
So how does acupuncture play into all this?
Acupuncture is a tool to use to deflate the balloon, to diffuse pressure, and break up the stagnation that has built up in the physical and emotional body.
Acupuncture promotes the proper flow of circulation of Qi, therefore reducing inflammation and calming the mind. When energy is flowing properly, we feel at ease ,our sleep improves, our muscles relax and pain is lessened.
And, What's the science behind it?
Acupuncture works on three main systems: Neurological , Endocrine , Immune
The nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system regulate and connect with each other. They coordinate , forming a organic network, which is the biological basis to maintain the body’s homeostasis.
It just so happens, the skin is a Neuro-Endocrine-Immune organ.
The skin is rich in nervous, endocrine, immune tissues structurally, and closely associated with these three systems in function.
What happens when you insert acupuncture needles?
Exogenous noxious stimuli to the skin (AKA Acupuncture needle insertion) can activate this network and produce regulatory effects on all three.
The stimulation of inserting an acupuncture needle can send a message from the peripheral NS (site of insertion) that is transmitted through the nerve pathway up the spinal cord, to the brain and into target organ systems. This is why acupuncture works so effectively to treat a wide variety of conditions.
There is evidence that acupuncture stimulates the healthy release of several neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. To name a few:
Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body. It is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function
Dopamine plays a role on vital brain functions that affect mood, sleep, memory, learning, concentration, and motor control. A dopamine deficiency may be related to certain medical conditions, including depression and Parkinson's disease
Acetylcholine causes muscles to contract, activates pain responses and regulates endocrine and REM sleep functions.
Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide stimulates contractility in the heart, causes vasodilation, increases glycogenolysis, lowers arterial blood pressure and relaxes the smooth muscle of trachea, stomach and gall bladder.
And, Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture can regulate the nonspecific immune function, including the following aspects:
Improves the number and function of Phagocytes, cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead cells.
Increase the number and activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell and a component of innate immune system. NK cells play a major role in the host-rejection of virally infected cells.
Promote the synthesis, secretion and biological activities of Cytokines, which regulate various inflammatory responses in order to regulate the body's response to disease and infection.
Want to experience the benefits of acupuncture for yourself or are interested in achieving balance by promoting healthy Qi and blood circulation?
Schedule an Acupuncture visit with Joseph Oh L.Ac. or Katie Star L.A.c
S.S. Ding, S.H. Hong, C. Wang, Y. Guo, Z.K. Wang, Y. Xu, Acupuncture modulates the neuro–endocrine–immune network, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Volume 107, Issue 5, May 2014, Pages 341–345, https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hct196