What Is the Physiological Basis for Acupuncture?

acupuncture dummySociety in the United States has been long focused on what we call Western medicine. We treat medical conditions, often conditions identified by analytical blood tests or characterization of symptoms, with drugs. These drugs are developed based on rigorous research and development and their risks:benefit ratios have been determined to be acceptable by the Food and Drug Administration. However, in the age of increasing stress and development of chronic conditions such as chronic pain and digestive disorders, people have begun to turn to techniques that are rooted in what we call Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a technique used in traditional Chinese medicine usually used to treat pain. This is done by inserting long, thin needles into the skin in strategic locations. Chinese medicine explains that our bodies have channels through which energy flows that is responsible for our life force. This energy is called Chi or Qi and the channels are called Meridians. Meridians originate in our organs and connect to a particular point in the skin. When a person is ill, Chinese medicine says that Chi has been disrupted. Acupuncture needles are used to clear the obstruction and allow Chi to flow in a balance manner. A very good description of these principles can be found here: http://www.drmanik.com/chap2.htm.

Being a spiritual person, the concepts of energy and life-force do make sense under certain circumstances; however, such forces still must be able to be explained when it comes to physiological effect on the body. Of course, the physiologist and Western upbringing in me says, “Okay, that’s cool and all, but what exactly are these needles doing to body systems and biochemistry?” Continue reading