Senior Acupuncturist & BAcC Member since 1999
Acupuncture with a modern approach
Daniel Bevan BSc(Hons)TCM:Acupuncture. MBAcC
research & links
British Acupuncture Council
The Professional Body for Acupuncturists in the UK
What is known about the biological effects of acupuncture?
Many studies in animals and humans have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses. These responses can occur locally, i.e. at or close to the site of application, or at a distance, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery. A focus of attention has been the role of endogenous options in acupuncture analgesia. Considerable evidence supports the claim that opioid peptides are released during acupuncture and that the analgesic effect of acupuncture is at least partially explained by their actions. The fact that opioid antagonists such as naloxone reverse the analgesic effect of acupuncture further strengthens this hypothesis. Stimulation by acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. The alteration of the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally, have been documented. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture. How these physiological changes mediate clinical effects is unclear at present (1).
The fact remains that even if some of traditional Eastern medical concepts, such as the circulation of chi, the meridian system, and other related theories, are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information, these concepts still continue to play an important role in the evaluation of patients and the formulation of treatment in acupuncture (1).
Ref. 1: NIH Consensus Conference. Acupuncture. JAMA 1998;280:1518-24.