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Acupuncture Research

Acupuncture has been employed as a health care modality for over 3,000 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.

Acupuncture and modern medicine, when used together, have the potential to support, strengthen and nurture the body towards health and well-being.

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 – research into acupuncture as a medical treatment

Research into acupuncture as a medical treatment has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, increasing at twice the rate of research into conventional biomedicine. Over this period, there have been over 13,000 studies conducted in 60 countries, including hundreds of meta-analyses summarising the results of thousands of human and animal studies.1 A wide-variety of clinical areas have been studied, including pain, cancer, pregnancy, stroke, mood disorders, sleep disorders and inflammation, to name a few.

More details please see:

Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence By Mel Hopper Koppelman, DAc, MSc, MSc

The Acupuncture Evidence Project – A Comparative Literature Review 2017