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  • Dr. Shanna Hudgin

How does acupuncture work?

Updated: Jan 27

Acupuncture has a multi-factorial effect on the human body. We are still learning through biomedical research exactly how it makes profound changes to neurotransmitters, hormones, and other biomolecules. But, to put it simply, acupuncture does 3 major things to the body:

  1. It activates the body’s own opioid system and modifies pain signaling substances, which is why it is very good for any pain conditions → headaches, stomach pain, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel associated pain, knee pain, you name it.

  2. It improves blood flow and microcirculation, and helps bring oxygen to tissues to aid in recovery from injury, disease, or illness

  3. It regulates the nervous system, which is the central command center for controlling all of our body’s functions and processes


The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) have a parasympathetic system (PNS) and a sympathetic system (SNS) that complement each other to sustain bodily functions. The PNS is our “rest and digest” realm that is responsible for slowing down our heart rate, lowering blood pressure, relaxing muscles and vessels, promoting digestion, and so on. While the SNS is the “fight or flight” mode, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, sending blood flow away from our vital organs and towards the limbs, elevating alertness, and so on.


Both of these aspects of the nervous system are important - but staying in one for too long is unsustainable and harmful. In today’s modern day world, we are often in the realm of fast pace, constantly thinking about the next thing, elevated stress, and distractions galore. Feeding the fight or flight, or stress response of our body.


Acupuncture taps into the parasympathetic mode to balance out the elevated, stressful, sympathetic nervous system to create balance or homeostasis in the body. When our insides are relaxed and calmed, healing can properly take place.


When an acupuncture needle goes into an acupuncture point, it communicates with local nerve endings that are connected to the spinal cord. The message goes from the distal nerve endings to the spinal cord to the brain. The brain creates a response, either excitatory or calming, and is sent back down the spinal cord and out to specific organs, muscles or vessels through neural connections.


If you’ve tried acupuncture in the past and it hasn’t worked for you, it is probably because not enough treatments were given or the frequency of treatments given were too far apart. Acupuncture works! But it works cumulatively and is dose dependent. This means that each dose, or acupuncture treatment, builds off of each other to achieve long lasting changes.


Healing the body from the outside in, without chemical or pharmaceutical intervention, takes time. Subtle changes from the needle stimulation build and after several treatments, maintain long lasting effects.


If you are looking for a different, more natural way to manage pain, fix hormonal imbalances, support digestion, calm your mind, or manage stress, it might be time to give acupuncture a try.


Schedule a free phone consultation to ask more about how acupuncture can help you in your health and wellness or book an initial acupuncture appointment at the Zhen Center.



References :

- Gwak YS, Kim HY, Lee BH, Yang CH. Combined approaches for the relief of spinal cord injury-induced neuropathic pain. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Apr;25:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.12.021. Epub 2016 Jan 6. PMID: 27062944. https://reference.medscape.com/medline/abstract/27062944

- https://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/pain/



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