What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy. The name Acupuncture is derived from Latin where "Acus" --> needle and "Pungue" --> to prick.
Acupuncture thus entails pricking fine, sterile, disposable silver needles on specific acupoints along the energy channels called meridians. There are about 386 Acu-Points on major nerves and 206 on small and large blood vessels.
Acupuncture is perhaps the only scientifically proven drugless, pain-free, safe and medically recommended Pain Management treatment with minimal side effects.
In India, Acupuncture is taught and clinically practised as a Medicine as part of Bachelor in Naturopathy and Yoga Sciences course in many Naturopathy colleges.
Scientific Theories of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is shown to work through 3 major clinical phenomenon:
1. Gate Control Theory
Gate Control Theory was proposed by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall in 1965. It says that non-painful input (such as pricking the acu needle) closes the "gates" to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from travelling to the central nervous system and hence Pain Perception is Inhibited.
Needling activates Aβ fibers or non-nociceptive fibers, can interfere with signals from pain fibers such as A-δ (nerves that carry acute or instant pain signals) and C (Nerves that carry long-term and chronic pain signals) afferent fibers signals to Spinal Cord, thereby inhibiting pain.
2. Neurotransmitter Theory
This theory was published by Harris RE, Zubieta JK, Scott DJ, Napadow V, Gracely RH, Clauw DJ in 2009. The theory states that:
- Certain Neurotransmitter levels are positively modulated by acupuncture. Midbrain triggers excitatory and inhibitory mediators to release neurotransmitters – Serotonin and Norepinephrine.
- Acupuncture Points around spinal cord send signals through periaqueductal grey matter to Hypothalamus which in turn triggers Pituitary Gland to produce Dopamine.
- Enhance dopamine levels regulate Serotonin and Noradrenalin levels that act as pain inhibitors.
3. Endorphin Release Theory
Also published in 2009 by Ahsin S, Saleem S, Bhatti AM, Iles RK, Aslam M, it states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. In contrast to the opiate drugs, however, activation of the opiate receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Uses of Acupuncture
There is ample research evidence to prove that Acupuncture works in alleviating symptoms in following conditions:
- Chronic and Acute Pain Management – Back Pain, Knee and Ankle Pain
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
- Male Infertility
- Certain Respiratory Disorders
- Weight Management and Metabolic Disorders
- Not recommended if patient has a bleeding issue or if the patient is taking blood thinners
- There might be bleeding, wounding & irritation at the insertion sites
- The needle may break & harm an internal organ (exceptionally uncommon)
- Un-Sterilized needles may infect or contaminate the patient
- When embedded deeply into the chest or upper back there is a danger of collapsed lung (exceptionally uncommon)
Acupuncture Should Only be Taken By a Trained Professional in a Clinical and Hygienic Setting.
1. Gate control theory
Arch Phys Med RehabiL 1981 Mar;62(3).
Myofascial trigger points: relation to acupuncture and mechanisms of pain.
Neuroimage. 2009 Sep;47(3):1077-85. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.083. Epub 2009 Jun 6.Traditional Chinese acupuncture and placebo (sham) acupuncture are differentiated by their effects on mu-opioid receptors (MORs).
Harris RE, Zubieta JK, Scott DJ, Napadow V, Gracely RH, Clauw DJ
3. Endorphin release theory
Pain. 2009 Dec 15;147(1-3):60-6. Clinical and endocrinological changes after electro-acupuncture treatment in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Ahsin S, Saleem S, Bhatti AM, Iles RK, Aslam M