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By Jordyn Cormier
If you suffer from chronic pain or health issues, you've probably considered (or been told to consider) acupuncture. But, if you can't fathom how a little, painless "needle" is going to fix your migraines or help with your hormonal imbalance, you're not alone. Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.
Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.Shutterstock
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. In a session, the "needle" is used to stimulate specific, powerful sites (acupoints) along meridian lines, which is though to promote healing throughout the body's various systems. Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat pain, PTSD, arthritis, chronic stress, addiction, insomnia, migraines, digestive disorders and much more. But there is no steadfast answer as to how or why acupuncture works. Here are four of the most common hypotheses for how acupuncture helps to restore balance to the body:
1. Unblock Energy Flow
In Eastern medicine, acupuncture is said to release energy blockages in the body. Energy or qi, flows through specific meridian lines in the body. By releasing areas of congestion and stagnation through acupuncture, qi is allowed to flow unfettered and promote health and balance. If your energy life-force is healthy, the physical body follows. Unfortunately, this explanation isn't widely accepted in Western medicine
2. Placebo Effect
Many doctors in Western medicine believe that the bulk of the benefits seen with acupuncture are heavily rooted in the mind-bending placebo effect. Whether this is true or not, the mind is a powerful source of healing energy. If acupuncture can unlock that energy successfully, why complain? Utilize it as a healing tool. Placebos should not be dismissed so quickly.
3. Stimulate the Body's Healing Powers
Some believe that stimulating nerves with the fine needle activates the body's internal healing mechanisms. In turn, the brain sends signals to that area in order to restore balance, when it may not have been actively addressing that area before. The action of inserting "needles" gently into the skin may increase hormone production and chemical signaling by drawing attention to important, neglected areas of our vast bodies, and alerting the brain that it is time to "clean house." It also helps that many people find acupuncture very relaxing and soothing for chronic stress, which also signals to the brain that it has the time and space to restore and repair the body.
4. Fascial Release
Perhaps the most recent theory as to how acupuncture works addresses the fascia. Fascia has been getting a lot of attention lately as it is becoming more recognized for its responsibilities in proper body function. Fascia is essentially an extensive compression sock that keeps your whole body contained. The issue is, with imbalance and inactivity, areas of fascia can become stiff, thick and unhealthy, leading to pain, inflammation and mis-signaling in the body.
According to a study conducted at University of Burlington, more than 80 percent of acupuncture points lie where connective tissue planes converge. With this in mind, it is possible that acupuncture could release stagnant, essential points in the fascia, so as to enable chemical messages to pass through more easily. This could explain why a "needle" in your ankle could help you with pain in your lower back.
If you're skeptical of acupuncture because no one is certain how or why it works, consider this: Western medicine still doesn't know exactly how the certain pills/drugs works either, yet millions take them every day. If you ask me, acupuncture is a lot less risky.
Of course, neither acupuncture or acupressure will miraculously heal all that ails you. Without a balanced and healthy lifestyle, acupuncture can only help you so much. Work to keep a clean diet, be mindful of stress levels, exercise regularly and be kind to yourself. Acupuncture is just another powerful modality of healing to assist you on life's journey.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.