Scientific Introduction to Acupuncture

Please join me in welcoming guest blogger: Peter Jones. 

Peter Jones has been in practice since 1991, and he is a doctor of oriental medicine with a concentration on Chinese medicine, manual therapy, exercise rehabilitation, trauma therapy, and holistic health & mind-body integration techniques.

He takes a scientific approach towards oriental medicine and has a strong interest in developing this aspect of the profession. He’s been involved with manual therapy research both independently and in affiliation with various groups since 1996. For the past few years, his research interests have been on applying the principles of biomechanics, evolutionary psychology and developmental biology to oriental medicine, bodywork and somatic education.

John Kunihiro, Founder, AOH

This is Peter’s Article:

by Peter Jones

Although acupuncture has been around for quite some time, very few people actually know much about it or what it’s good for. I think we can all agree that most of us work too hard and could benefit from less stress, less pain, more relaxation and a whole lot more energy. But unless we’re about to depart on an extended vacation, our choices are pretty limited. And this is where acupuncture comes in.

I’m writing this because I want people to know a little more about acupuncture and how it can help make their lives easier. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky placebo effect either. Acupuncture really works. For starters, acupuncture is amazing for emotional distress. That’s right, acupuncture is very helpful for things like anxiety, depression, frustration, anger and other feelings of distress. Along these same lines, it also helps insomnia, fatigue, headaches, digestive problems and generalized “blahness”.

How Acupuncture Works

For the sake of convenience and to avoid the sometimes ambiguous ideas of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we can say that acupuncture addresses “neuromotor” or “neuro-somatic” behavior. Neuromotor behavior is the result of functional, “real-time” electrical activity within the brain that establishes not only physiological homeostasis but also our “felt-sense” of self. It’s this inter-relationship between self-image and autonomic regulation that produces the stress-related symptoms that acupuncture treats.

When acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, they change the pattern of electrical activity within the brain’s somato-topography. By affecting the brain’s electrical activity, acupuncture affects a person’s somato-emotional experience and in turn, their symptoms of emotional and autonomic distress. Depending on the kind of experience a practitioner wants to encourage, they insert needles into different regions of the body.

Acupuncture needles are fashioned of thin metal wire and inserting them into the body damages whatever tissue they enter. This localized tissue damage is actually the key to acupuncture’s therapeutic efficacy. The tissue damage registers within the brain’s somato-topography as a disturbance field long after the needles are removed; roughly 72 hours. The effects of an acupuncture session are often immediate and usually are felt within 72 hours – the time it takes for the body to heal the resultant tissue damage.

Acupuncture is most commonly used for pain management, and rightfully so. For all the same reasons that acupuncture is effective at treating general bodily and mental ailments and promoting overall well-being, it is brilliant for reducing or eliminating pain. It seems like everyone has more pain than they’d like. Neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, and back pain are rampant. Not to mention wrist, elbow and knee problems.

Pain is a complicated phenomenon that often seems to defy explanation. However, the biggest source of pain for most people is usually muscle spasm.

Muscles can go into spasm because of immediate injury or from chronic over-use. If you’re relying on pain killers, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxers because something hurts, I’m telling you that there’s nothing better than acupuncture for reducing muscle tension, and of course, it’s drug free. In fact, muscles are found throughout the entire body. Our heart, blood vessels, stomach, intestines, urinary bladder, and gall bladder are all muscles. Even our skin and eyes rely on muscles to function. So the simple fact that acupuncture affects muscles helps us realize just how many things it can address. This includes cold and flu symptoms like watery eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose and those problematic sinuses. And finally, if you’re one of the many females who endure the dreaded cramping, bloating, emotional rollercoaster and overall “blahness” that Mother Nature bestows upon you once a month, acupuncture can be a god-send.

Acupuncture also has some happy by-products. Although the healers at AOH are primarily focused on the medical approaches and techniques of acupuncture, we cannot ignore its aesthetic benefits. So for those more concerned with (let’s be honest and call it what it is…) “vanity”, acupuncture has been gaining considerable notoriety in the press lately (did you see that Oprah episode?) for decreasing wrinkles, tightening muscles and improving facial complexion. So maybe you’ve got a big day ahead of you and you’re just not looking as fresh as you’d like??? Acupuncture can definitely help.

How you ask, “can acupuncture treat my puffiness and other aesthetic imperfections”? Well, quite simply, our skin is fed by a veritable jungle of interconnecting nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic ducts. While our blood vessels deliver the nutrients that our skin needs to maintain proper health, turgor and vitality, our lymphatic system governs waste removal and water retention. What ultimately regulates the lymphatics and blood vessels is the autonomic nervous system, and acupuncture addresses the nervous system directly. So by up-regulating the nervous system, acupuncture can effect change in the health of not only our face, but our entire body.