Acupuncture essentially involves the insertion of very small, fine and sterile metal needles into the skin. It was exclusively a component of the Chinese health care system, dating back at least 2,500 years. However, since the 1970s there has been an explosion of interest in the benefits of acupuncture in both the USA and Europe.
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While the essential techniques used by both ancient and modern acupuncturists are much the same, there is a division between the ancient Chinese theories and the scientific medical community on how it might work. There is now a large amount of research on acupuncture which means the old theories are evolving, as new knowledge is added to our understanding.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or 'life force', flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced 'chi'). Each of the channels is associated with a specific organ of the body. Practitioners who adhere to ancient beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi cannot flow freely through the body, this can cause illness.
A traditional acupuncturist aims to correct this flow of Qi, and thereby restore the balance within the body. They believe different points along these channels have different specific functions, some promote the movement of Qi up or down the body, some heat or cool and others balance or harmonize. However, due to the difficulty in testing this theory there is no current scientific basis for the existence of Qi or meridians. This is not to say they do not exist.
Extensive scientific research over the last few decades has shown that acupuncture may be acting on many different body. It is thought acupuncture produces a multitude of positive effects on the body by stimulating the network of nerve fibres in the skin and muscle.
It has been suggested acupuncture improves the body's immune response. It does this by raising white blood cells, anti-bodies and a whole host of other hormones. It also may stimulate the brain to turn on its pain suppressing mechanism by increasing the release of substances such as such endorphins. Endorphins are the body's natural version of morphine and thus help reduce pain and are associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. It may increase levels of substances such as Serotonin, which is known to help regulate mood, appetite, and sleep. While this is happening it has been suggested acupuncture causes local blood vessels to dilate and so local blood flow (heavily laden with natural chemicals) increases to the deeper tissues.
When a muscle has been over worked it can develop an area of damage that is slow to heal and this can cause persistent pain. Small knots of tight muscle fibres form 'trigger points'. It is suggested acupuncture promotes the change of these trigger points through the mechanisms listed above.
In conjunction to this it is known pain signals pass through a number of 'check points' as they move from the area of injury, through the spinal cord and to the brain, where they are interpreted as pain. It is thought these nerve 'check points' can only handle a limited volume of pain signals at once. It is postulated that acupuncture creates a local competing stimulus which essentially blocks the original pain signals from reaching the brain.
Our Acupuncturists are located at the Wellwest Clinic, 31 Lincoln Road in Henderson, West Auckland. Call 838 0631