Acupuncture encourages the body’s natural recourse for healing. In 1971 acupuncture became a topic of interest in the United States for Western physicians, after an assistant to an American dignitary was treated following an appendectomy in a Chinese hospital. Western physicians and researchers set out, using Western technology, to “pinpoint” exactly how acupuncture worked. Studies established that the needles stimulated the body to release the endogenous opioids, thus producing an analgesic effect. They also found that the immune system, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary gland, all in turn stimulate the release of hormones that provoke changes in the levels of neurotransmitters. The acupuncture points contain an increased number of peripheral nerve endings compared to other points in the body.
Advances in technology have enabled and encouraged continued interest and facilitated a myriad of research on more specific effects of this ancient form of healing intervention. As acupuncture continued to gain popularity in 1998 the National Institutes of Health and since, many other research institutions in the United States have designed multiple clinical studies to investigate and gain information about more details of the physiological changes caused by acupuncture.
Different modalities of neuroimaging, MRI, PET scans, Color Doppler Imaging, to reveal that most acupuncture effects are mediated via the brain. Studies of the whole brain’s response to different acupuncture points reflect responses specific to regional localizations. A body of clinical data is available to suggest that stimulation of acupuncture points are recorded as having modulatory effects on the limbic system, para-limbic and subcortical gray structures. Acupuncture works through physiological mechanisms primarily in the autonomic nervous system. Ultrasound and Color Doppler Imaging of blood flow indicate the effects and suggests that acupuncture produces significant hemodynamic changes.
Acupuncture is reported as producing a very relaxing feeling for most, many fall asleep during treatment. Acupuncture is done with hair-like thin needles in specific points in the body to address multiple needs that produce or develop into disease or pain. Acupuncture is not painful. Many are concerned of discomfort because they associate needles with hypothermic needles which are wide and hollow to permit the flow of fluids. Since these are flexible and hair like thin no discomfort is associated with treatment. Acupuncture protocols usually involve a series of treatments, though most report improvement of the symptoms in the first session. Individual health needs may require different frequency of treatments.
Acupuncture has been recognized as a significant aid in people experiencing pain.
Another important area in which acupuncture has proven to be quite helpful is for people seeking smoking cessation solutions without pharmaceuticals.