Without subscribing to a belief in Qi and ancient Chinese medicine, no one can really explain why or how acupuncture works; but it without question does work, and a common analgesic technique within Chinese hospitals is the use of electrified acupuncture needles as a replacement for anesthesia during surgeries!
There are many theories as to why acupuncture induces physiological responses in the body, but three of the most credible are that it influences the release of endorphins, that it influences the release or reuptake of neurotransmitters, or through a gate keeper theory of pain management.
Some proponents argue that the manipulation and insertion of needles at certain parts of the body causes a corresponding release of endorphins in the brain, and this can explain some of the remarkable analgesic properties of the technique, and since the endorphins also influence the pain and reward centers of the brain, could explain how acupuncture seems to reduce withdrawal and cravings.
Others opine that the effects of acupuncture are realized through an alteration of neurotransmitter levels in the brain. It is hypothesized that the insertion of needles may influence neural levels of noradrenalin and serotonin.
Lastly and most commonly presented as explanation, is the gate keeper theory. Proponents of this theory argue that the brain can only process so many concurrent stimuli, and when the nervous system becomes overloaded through the progressive insertion of many needles throughout the body, it loses its ability to recognize other unrelated stimuli. This makes another convincing argument for the remarkable analgesic properties of the technique.
Page last updated Aug 05, 2010