If you’ve ever asked an acupuncturist “how does acupuncture work?”, they probably used words and phrases like “spleen qi deficiency” or “liver qi stagnation” or even “kidney yang deficiency”. These are all outdated terms that ancient Chinese medicine practioners used to describe the cause of disease thousands of years ago before modern science. Which is hard for most people to relate to..
Here at TCM Hoots Acupuncture & Bodywork in Astoria, NY. I like to demystify Chinese medicine and explain it with a scientific based approach. That said, according to modern research on acupuncture, there are at least five known mechanisms at play. Today we will talk about the first mechanism: The Local Effect.
If you’ve ever gotten an acupuncture treatment, you may have felt a cooling or warming sensation, or maybe a muscle twitch and thought “what was that?” Well, at each acupuncture point there are neurons that reflex when they are stimulated with an acupuncture needle. This oftentimes elicits a muscle twitch or a tingling, warming, cooling and/or achy sensation.
That neural reflex is extremely important because it initiates a cascade of events that explain how acupuncture works. When this reflex occurs, it sends a transmission to the brain that signals the secretion of Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide (CGRP).
CGRP is the body’s STRONGEST vasodilator, meaning it triggers the relaxation and expansion of our blood vessels. This allows more blood and fluids to flow through them and into local tissues. This pooling of blood and fluids is known as “the chemical soup”. A soup, because it contains an abundance of cells and chemicals that hydrate and nourish the local tissues, providing profound healing and pain relieving benefits.
This Chemical Soup Consists of:
WBC: White blood cells, also known as Leukocytes. They help the body fight off infections from bacteria, viruses and germs. They also help rid the body of debris from cells and tissue damage.
RBC: Red blood cells provide nourishment to all of our tissues so they stay healthy and hydrated. They also are loaded stem cells that promote tissue repair. Great for reducing neck, shoulder and back pain due to dehydrated muscles!
Glutamate: A powerful neurotransmitter responsible for sending signals between nerve cells. When activated during an acupuncture treatment they help down regulate pain signals going to the brain.
Prostaglandin E2: These play a major role in the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle & blood vessels which helps to regulate blood pressure. Additionally, it assist in regulating inflammation and is involved in almost all inflammatory indicators like redness, swelling and pain.
Substance P: It is the number one neurotransmitter for regulating pain signals.
Serotonin: Mostly known as mood stabilizer, but it also plays a role in wound healing.
This sequence of events is what we call the local effect. It is ONLY the first of the five mechanisms at play when discussing how acupuncture works. So stay tuned for part 2 of this series!
For more information about acupuncture and how it might benefit you. Call TCM Hoots Acupuncture & Bodywork in Astoria, NY at 347-833-2275. We proudly serve all of Manhattan, Queens and some parts of Brooklyn. We see clients in both our office or YOUR home or office.
To book an appointment, please call or text 347-833-2275, or schedule online.