How Acupuncture Works Within the Framework of Western Medicine
In general, acupuncture points stimulate the central nervous system, which releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either alter the experience of pain or release other chemicals (such as hormones) that influence the body's self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Attention has been focused on the following theories to further explain how acupuncture affects the body:
Activation of the body's natural opiod system: Considerable research supports the claim that acupuncture releases opiods, synthetic or naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain that may reduce pain or induce sleep. These chemicals may explain acupuncture's pain-relieving effects.
Stimulation of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland: Joined at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for many body functions. The hypothalamus activates and controls part of the nervous system, the endocrine processes, and many other functions, such as sleep, regulation of temperature, and appetite. The pituitary gland supplies some of the body's needed hormones. Stimulation of these glands can result in a broad spectrum of effects on various body systems.
Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones: Studies show that acupuncture alters brain chemistry in a positive way. This is accomplished by changing the release of neurotransmitters (biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses) and neurohormones (naturally-occurring chemical substances that can change the structure or function, or impact the activity of, a body organ).