Considering I get this question every single time I see a new patient, I wanted to write it down….
Explanation # 1 – in TCM Terms:
Through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is all about balance. The theory is that all the meridians in the body are balanced & healthy. But in the real world, balance is always precarious. During our intake we will get a sense of all the symptoms a patient is having and then will use our diagnostic tools of feeling the pulse and looking at the tongue. All this is done to find out which internal organ & meridian is in EXCESS and which is DEFICIENT. Then we go in along those meridians and balance them by moving the excess energy back to the deficient meridians. A beautiful self regulating system.
Explanation #2 – in Western Medicine Terms:
There is another way though that I like to explain acupuncture that is a bit more concrete for the western medicine mindset in our culture. Imagine when you get either a bug bite or a scrape. Irritating at first but in a few days, it’s completely gone and you’re healed! Like magic! Well that’s the magic of the nervous system & the immune system working together. It’s the body’s amazing capacity to heal itself. Acupuncture uses this magic to signal to the brain to start the healing process. During the acupuncture treatment we essentially create tiny sterile wounds. The needles are clean and there’s no medication inside them. So it’s just the smallest poke that tells the brain that something is there that shouldn’t be. The brain’s response is to release neurochemicals like endorphins & serotonin to keep the body in homeostasis. Then the immune system chemicals get released like antibodies, macrophages, and neutrophils. Cells called fibroblasts work together to repair the tissues & collagen is called in to support in strength and durability of the healing skin. Again, it’s a magical cascade of events that our body’s do naturally! So acupuncture is simply initiating the body’s own innate capacity for healing.
I LOVE this way of describing it because it’s our body’s own capacity to heal that allows acupuncture to work. It’s nothing outside ourselves. The magic comes from within!
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