How does acupuncture work?

The Western scientific explanation

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Acupuncture is believed to act primarily by stimulating the nervous system and by its ability to stimulate the release of a wide variety of chemicals and hormones in the body. Points are also selected because they are trigger points (knots of muscle), or because they connect to the part of the body being treated via the spinal cord (segmental acupuncture).
Acupuncture works through the body's nervous system.

It also causes the release of many important hormones and chemicals including:

• Beta-endorphin
• Met-enkephalin
• Serotonin
• Dymorphin
• Noradrenaline
• Oxytocin

Acupuncture has measurable effects on many of the body's systems including:

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• Temperature control
• Sweat gland activity
• Blood circulation
• Lung function
• Urinary function
• Bowel function
• Inflammation
• Breathlessness
• Fatigue
• Anxiety
• Depression

Acupuncture can also exert its effects via the spinal cord from where it can influence most of the body's organs.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture

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Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an ancient system of medicine originating in the East two thousand years ago.
This is based on the belief that energy (or Qi, pronounced ‘chee’) flows throughout the body along channels or ‘meridians’. Balance and harmony are integral to the concept of health and any obstruction to the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body can cause disease.
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The concept of harmony is also represented in the balance between Yin and Yang (pictured right). The principle that everyone is governed by the opposing, but complementary, forces of Yin and Yang is central to Chinese philosophy.
It is believed that pain, or illness, occurs if the body becomes out of balance and the energy (Qi) is prevented from flowing freely. The purpose of acupuncture is to remove any blockages and enable the energy to flow freely and harmoniously throughout the body, thereby restoring balance and health.