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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mio Hamasaki

A published article (Wong and Shen, 2010) explained the various scientific methods of action of acupuncture that help relieve pain, regulate body systems, and improve mental health:


1. Mechanotransduction: Acupuncture needles stimulate immune cell activity in a localized area because needles are “foreign invaders” to the body. The increase in immune cell activity helps the body heal itself.


2. Autonomous Nervous System: Acupuncture inhibits the sympathetic nervous system (which is activated in response to stress and danger) by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps recover from stress and danger by relaxing the cardiovascular and muscular systems and normalizing visceral functions).


3. Gate Control: Acupuncture needles trigger a signal to the brain using a different nervous pathway than one that is triggered with sensations of pain. This signal overrides the pain signal being sent to the brain and less pain is perceived by the person.


4. Postsynaptic Inhibition: Acupuncture stimulates the brain in a way that leads to an increase in serotonin and noradrenalin, which dampens the pain signals.


5. Embryonic Singularity: The meridians and points of acupuncture theory follow the pathways of cellular communication that are established in the body while an embryo is growing in utero. Such intercellular communications are utilized by acupuncture to improve, for example, organ functionality by stimulating external areas (reachable by acupuncture) that are on the same pathway as the corresponding organ.


Reference:

Wong, M. C., & Shen, H. J. (2010). Science-based mechanisms to explain the action of acupuncture.Journal of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, UK.

A clinical trial (Fan et al., 2022) examining the effects of acupuncture for anxiety in patients with Parkinson disease found that patients treated with acupuncture 3 times per week experienced a significant decrease in adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) after 8 weeks of treatment. ACTH is the hormone that releases cortisol (the “stress hormone“). Therefore, lower levels of ACTH is associated with less levels of stress.


Interestingly, while blood tests showed a significant decrease in the treated patients’ ACTH levels at their check up at 8 weeks, the patients did not self-report significant improvements to their emotional well-being until their check up at 16 weeks.


The study also found that the acupuncture treatment led to significant improvements in the patients’ anxiety levels, motor functions, and overall quality of life.


For Practitioners:

Points Needled: DU24, Yintang, HT7, SP6, and Si Shen Zhen (4 acupoints, including DU21, DU19, and 1.5 cun lateral to DU20 bilaterally).

After needle insertion, the needles were ”twisted” for 1 minute at a frequency of 180 to 200 rpm. Needles were retained for 30 mins.


Reference:

Fan, J. Q., Lu, W. J., Tan, W. Q., Liu, X., Wang, Y. T., Wang, N. B., & Zhuang, L. X. (2022). Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Anxiety Among Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open, 5(9), e2232133.


A clinical trial (Berman et al., 2004) examining the effects of acupuncture for reducing pain and dysfunction in 570 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee found that patients treated with acupuncture 23 times over 26 weeks (8 weeks of 2 treatments per week followed by 2 weeks of 1 treatment per week, 4 weeks of 1 treatment every other week, and 12 weeks of 1 treatment per month) experienced significant improvements in pain and function of the knee.


For Practitioners:

Points Needled: 5 local points- GB34, SP9, ST35, ST36, and Xi Yan. 4 distal points- BL60, GB39, SP6, and KD3.

E-Stim: Xi Yan, at low frequency (8 Hz), and square biphasic pulses (0.5-ms pulse width) for 20 minutes.


Citation:

Berman, B. M., Lao, L., Langenberg, P., Lee, W. L., Gilpin, A. M., & Hochberg, M. C. (2004). Effectiveness of acupuncture as adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, controlled trial.Annals of internal medicine,141(12), 901–910.

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