Does Acupuncture Relieve Pain? Studies Show Indeed It Does
Since the early nineteen-seventies, acupuncture in the United States has been growing in popularity. In 2002, approximately two-point-one million U.S. adults had used acupuncture within the last year. As of 2007, sixty percent of U.S. adults say they would readily consider acupuncture as a potential treatment option. Here are some of the theories about how acupuncture works for pain, one of the most well-known uses of the therapy.
Augmentation of immunity theory—Acupuncture raises levels of antibodies, white blood cells, certain hormones, immunoglobins and other chemicals that relate to the body’s ability to defend itself against foreign invaders; case studies show acupuncture has boosted the immune system.
Circulatory theory—Needling can lead to the constriction or dilation of blood vessels by the body’s release of vasodilators like histamine. This theory accounts for acupuncture’s ability to help treat high or low blood pressure.
Neurotransmitter theory—Acupuncture affects levels of certain neurotransmitters in areas of the brain such as the reticular formation system that control arousal degrees, possibly producing calming effects; acupuncture can influence the release of hormones.
Electrical theory—Research shows that electromagnetic fields of the body and the meridians associated with acupuncture are related; needling can stimulate the electrical fields and alter levels of neurotransmitters in the body.
Endorphin theory—Needling certain points can stimulate the release of endorphins through certain nerves connected to certain muscles, thereby alleviating pain.
Gate theory—Acupuncture can limit the perception of pain by closing the “gate” that regulates pain perception. Acupuncture works on the large nerve fibers to prevent the transmission of pain signals from reaching the brain.
For more information on acupuncture, visit AOMA at www.aoma.edu; American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at www.aaaomonline.org; and Society for Acupuncture Research at www.acupunctureresearch.homestead.com.