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How Does Acupuncture Work?

Model of acupuncture points
Acupuncture point locations

Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice that originated in traditional Chinese medicine. The exact mechanisms of action of acupuncture are still not fully understood, but there are several theories that attempt to explain how it works. Here are some possible mechanisms of action for acupuncture:

Stimulation of nerves: Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, which can stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and muscle. This can trigger a cascade of physiological responses, including the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, which can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

Activation of the immune system: Acupuncture may stimulate the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells, antibodies, and other immune system components. This can help to improve overall health and reduce the risk of infections and other illnesses.

Regulation of the nervous system: Acupuncture may help to regulate the autonomic nervous system, which controls various involuntary functions of the body, such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing. By balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system, acupuncture can help to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Release of endorphins: Acupuncture may stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body. Endorphins can help to block pain signals in the brain and reduce feelings of discomfort.

Modulation of brain activity: Acupuncture may affect the activity of certain areas of the brain, including those involved in pain processing, mood regulation, and the autonomic nervous system. This can help to improve cognitive function, emotional well-being, and overall health.

It's important to note that the exact mechanisms of action of acupuncture may vary depending on the individual and the specific conditions being treated. Additionally, some of the proposed mechanisms of action may overlap or interact with each other to produce the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.

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