When people contemplate Chinese medicine, the first thoughts aren’t whether it works. That has been well established through thousands of years of use. The question is always, why it works. Of course, the Chinese have their theories as to why acupuncture works, but these explanations and theories are foreign to Westerners and can sometimes be confusing to us. The TCM explanation uses concepts such as “chi (Qi) and meridians”, words and concepts unfamiliar to the western world.
The following are five prevailing theories posted by the western medical community, using scientific terminology, to explain acupunctures' effectiveness. These are based upon studies performed before and after acupuncture, using blood draws to measure biomedical changes in the body.
The Gate Control Theory:
Pain signals must pass through some high traffic gates as they move from the area of injury upward through the spinal cord into the brain. Like a road or a highway, these nerves can only handle a limited number of nerve signals at one time. Acupuncture generates competing stimuli and effectively interrupts the neurotransmitters of the pain signals from reaching the brain. This results in the patient never getting the pain signal and therefore never getting the pain. This is the most popular theory among Western scientists.
The Augmentation Theory:
Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood cells (WBC’s), gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is why acupuncture can treat disorders relating to immune deficiencies. Raising WBC’s can help every patient. According to research, more and more conditions are being linked with a weak immune system. Whether or not you are immune-compromised, you always want your immune system as strong as possible and this is a positive bi-product of all acupuncture treatments.
The Endorphin Theory:
Acupuncture stimulates the secretion of endorphins in the body (specifically Enkephalins). Endorphins are our bodies’ natural painkillers. They are 1000 times stronger than morphine.
The Neurotransmitter Theory:
This states that certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture. This is why acupuncture is so successful with depression, mood disorders, and weight loss. Seratonin levels are affected by sugar intake and low Seratonin levels may cause cravings for sugar. This is why people feel so amazing after a treatment.
The Circulatory Theory:
There is an effect of constricting or dilating of blood vessels, from doing acupuncture. A possible explanation of this is the release of the body’s vasodilators (such as Histamine), in response to acupuncture. Increasing circulation of fresh red blood cells (RBC’s) and WBC’s to an injured area helps to create a faster healing process. Acupuncture is very effective in treating edema by this concept of promoting dilation.
Remember: Oriental Medicine is not a substitute for Western medicine. It is complementary. Western medicine focuses more on acute health problems and treating them symptomatically, whereas Oriental medicine is focused more on prevention and the root cause of a problem. While both forms have their strengths, Oriental medicine’s approach can have many more long-term benefits than conventional medicine.