How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile filiform (solid) needles at specific points in the body called acupuncture points, to influence a healing/balancing response. This novel stimuli to our bodies triggers our bodies to return to a healthier state, often helping to break out of chronic negative pattern .
I like to think of acupuncture as a way of giving the body a new set of directions, and that acupuncture is way of communicating directly with our body's healing and regulatory/homeostatic system, through this novel stimulus. The needles used in acupuncture are single-use sterile stainless steel needles, they are not hollow unlike most medical syringe type needles you may be familiar with. There is also no medication used with our needles, it is the stimulus itself from the acupuncture needle insertion at appropriate acupuncture points on the body's surface, and your body's own unique reaction to this stimulus which accounts for the effects of acupuncture.
Some of the known effects of acupuncture from a Western Medical point of view are pain relief through the stimulation of endogenous endorphins as well as influencing nerve gates in sending pain signals back to the central nervous system. Acupuncture has also been shown to have global effects regulating the nervous system between parasympathetic and sympathetic states, likely through the stimulation of nearby nervous system tissue. Acupuncture is also often cited for its effects use in reducing nausea related to pregnancy as well as chemotherapy, likely also due to some of its regulating effects on the nervous and hormonal systems.
From a Chinese medicine standpoint acupuncture works by influencing meridians, invisible channels that connect and move energy and nourishment throughout the body; somewhat analogous to the blood and lymph systems in Western medicine, but also different.
These channels are seen to act somewhat like rivers do in the natural environment, bringing nourishment and fertility. From this viewpoint when there are blockages in the channels (of the body or in nature) disorder occurs, flooding above the blockage and drought or lack of nourishment below the blockage and chaos at the site of the blockage. On a broader scale, like several towns linked by rivers for trade, internal organ function can also be affected if there is disorder in a meridian channel preventing the free flow of nutrients between organs connected by the meridians and the removal of waste materials by the bowels and viscera.
Therefore from the Chinese medicine point of view acupuncture works to remove local blockages and restore normal free flow so that they body suffers from neither excess or deficiency locally and systemically helps to ensure that the organs receive the correct nourishment and flow of resources for healthy/normal function.