I get this question a lot. The medicine of acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years, and how they discovered way back then that a needle placed in the ankle has an affect on your digestion, is a testament to the medical practices of the Ancient Chinese. The fact is, they were brilliant medical professionals, and they were studying gross anatomy long before their Western medical counterparts.
We have over 350 acupuncture points along 12 major meridians that run up and down the body. Each of those points act in different ways to influence the energy of the organ systems and areas of the body where the meridians go. Some points move qi and blood, some points regulate body temperature to cool us down or warm us up, some points act on phlegm and dampness/inflammation. Most of our acupuncture points are located close to nerve bundles and blood vessel bifurcations. When we needle these areas, we are directly influencing the peripheral nervous system, which is why acupuncture has such a calming effect. The exact mechanism of acupuncture is still relatively unknown, but with modern technology, we know this:
- Acupuncture increases circulation of the body’s fluids which brings more oxygen to tissues
- Acupuncture reduces inflammation, the cause of so many problems including pain, digestive upset, reproductive issues, and allergies
- Acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone
- Acupuncture reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (the nerves that stimulate the rest and digest part of our bodies)
- Acupuncture stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms so that problems are able to be fixed internally
By doing all of these things, acupuncture influences every organ system in the body, from the digestive system to the cardiovascular system to the nervous system. This is why patients feel so relaxed and sometimes euphoric after an acupuncture treatment. The end result is that the body is restored to homeostasis, or its natural balance, and when the body is happy the mind is happy!