Having been in practice for over a decade, this is the most frequently asked question I get in clinic. “How does sticking a needle in this spot help with my problem over here?”
To answer this question we first must understand how problems arise in the body. Quite simply, it is all about circulation. When blood and fluids circulate to every cell in the body all tissues get the nourishment they need, get rid of the stuff they do not need, and all is well. When circulation gets disrupted pain and dysfunction can develop. Circulation can be disrupted for a multitude of reasons; overuse, poor diet, injury, repetitive activities, the list of causes it endless. But the solution is always draining out the stagnation and improving circulation to the area.
So how does acupuncture accomplish this? How does sticking a needle in an area improve circulation of blood and fluids? To answer these questions let's take a look at where exactly these needles are going.
Acupuncture points are located along pathways. You may hear these pathways referred to as meridians, channels, or a multitude of other descriptions. Whatever you choose to call them lets take a look at what they are. Are they nerves? Are they blood vessels? Are they energy pathways? My understanding it that acupuncture pathways are all of these things.
An acupuncture pathway consists of nerves, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, muscles, bones, and every other body tissue working together. I like to think of it like the body’s irrigation system. And just as it is in nature, when an area becomes stagnant with water, we open pathways for that stagnant water to drain out. That is more or less how acupuncture works. When stagnation occurs, the body attempts to correct itself. Reflexively these areas will become active. A trained acupuncturist can locate these points and with the needle accentuate the body’s natural response, in essence draining the stagnation and increasing circulation to the area.
Often the effects of acupuncture are immediate. Patients will notice immediate reduction if not elimination of pain. Symptoms will improve significantly following acupuncture treatment. To this day I get a bit awe struck when I see the results that can be accomplished for the most stubborn of conditions.