Acupuncture has been employed as a health care modality for over 5,000 years
Practitioners of this ancient medical practice have experienced clinical success with a variety of health issues. Today, acupuncture is receiving wide acceptance as a respected, valid and effective form of health care.
When most people think about acupuncture, they are familiar with its use for pain control. But acupuncture has a proven track record of treating and addressing a variety of endocrine, circulatory and systemic conditions.
There are a variety of techniques utilised in acupuncture such as Tradition Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, Laser Acupuncture , Cupping.
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve function. This is done inserting sterilised, stainless-steel needles (as fine as a human hair) into specific points located near or on the surface of the skin which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to treat a wide variety of illnesses.
Electro-Acupuncture ( EA ) – is similar to traditional acupuncture in that the same acupuncture points are stimulated during the treatment, except of the needles are attached to a device that will provide continuous stimulation to these points using a gentle electric pulse. The frequency and intensity of the stimulation adjusted relevant to the patient and the condition being treated. EA is often used in pain management, muscular and soft tissue injuries and neurological disorders
Laser Acupuncture – Low Intensity Light Therapy ( LILT ) has been employed as an alternative to the use of traditional acupuncture needles for many years. Laser Acupuncture works in what is known as the therapeutic range , this has a positive effect on bio stimulation and promote would healing and tissue repair and is therefore used for musculoskeletal injuries , soft tissue injuries along with traditional acupuncture point stimulation.
Cupping – is a traditional Chinese practice using glass suction cups on the skin. Cupping is used for a variety of condition but is more commonly used for muscular problems. The suction draws on the underly muscle and mobilises the blood stasis which can cause muscular dysfunction. Cupping can be used as treatment alone or in conjunction with other acupuncture techniques.
These are exciting times for research in acupuncture and it is demonstrating how acupuncture belongs as an integral part of our allied health system. The most recent acupuncture review found acupuncture to be effective for a number of conditions. For more information on this review, see The Acupuncture Evidence Project.
For updated acupuncture research and articles that are very easy to read., see Evidence Based Acupuncture website.
What is known about the physiological effects of acupuncture
Over the last few decades, research has been conducted seeking to explain how acupuncture works and what it can and cannot treat.
The 1997 National Institute of Health (NIH) Consensus on Acupuncture reports that “studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological response, mediated mainly by sensory neurons, to many structures within the central nervous systems. This can lead to activation of pathways, affecting various physiological systems in the brain, as well as in the periphery.”
The NIH Consensus also suggests that acupuncture “may activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohomones, and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally, have been documented. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture.
Below are current theories on the mechanism of acupuncture:
1. Neurotransmitter Theory – Acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of betaendorphines and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive system.
2. Autonomic Nervous System Theory – Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephine, acetylcholine and several types of oplaids, affecting changes in their turnover rate, nomalizing the autonomic nervous system, and reducing pain.
3. Gate Control Theory – Acupuncture activates nonnociceptive receptors that inhiit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn, “gating out” painful stimuli.
4. Vascular-intersititial Theory – Acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues.
5. Blood Chemistry Theory – Acupuncture affects the blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis.
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 51% of medical doctors understand the efficacy and value of acupuncture, and medical doctors refer patients to acupuncturists more than any other alternative care provider.
The NIH Consensus on Acupuncture further states that clinical experience, supported by research data, suggests acupuncture may be a reasonable option for a number of clinical conditions.
Evidence also points to positive clinical trials that “include addiction, stroke rehabilitation, carpal tunnel syndrome, ostecarthritis, and headaches.” The Consensus also mentions that acupuncture treatment may be helpful for other conditions such as ashma, postoperative pain, myofascial pain and low back pain.