By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been used effectively for over 4000 years as apart of a complete system of medicine that originated in China, known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM encompasses healing, vitality, and preventative care. Chinese medicine focuses on strengthening the body-mind’s natural intelligence and ability to heal through the gentle support and guidance of acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle.
Registered acupuncturists insert fine, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points that lie along meridians, for specific reasons. Acupuncture is most commonly used for pain, tension, mental-emotional health, addiction, sleep, digestion, and a variety of women's health concerns including irregular menstruation.
How Does It Work?
Acupuncture is based on the laws of electro-magnetic energy (Qi) and its flow throughout meridians or channel pathways in your body. If those meridians and organs are clogged, blocked, or lacking nourishment, due to a variety of reasons, you will experience symptoms. Registered acupuncturists insert fine, sterile, disposable needles into specific internal communication points along meridians to help access the flow of qi, and to balance presentable patterns. The goal of this dynamic and integrated health care system is to activate the natural, innate self-healing abilities of the body-mind-spirit. It also strengthens and supports the body to prevent future illness and disease.
How Does Acupuncture Work According to Western Biomedicine?
Acupuncture meridian pathways travel along fascial lines, and acupuncture points that lie along these routes contain greater concentrations of stimulatory nerve endings, receptors, electricity, and vascular structures. You can visualize fascial lines and corresponding meridians as the communication network and acupuncture points as the control centers.
“The body is a web and once a part moves the whole web has to readjust. This is known as the body tensegrity system. Depending on which muscles are tight, various planes of the body readjust and it does this along fairly predictable fascia lines. These lines have been described as the acupuncture channels of Chinese medicine.” – Dr. Daniel Keown, The Spark and the Machine
As needles are inserted into fascia, cell micro-trauma and nerve receptor stimulation within fascia causes the body to naturally seek homeostasis. This increases communication with the brain and creates neurochemical changes, which positively alters signals from the brain to distant tissues.
Homeostasis: a relative constancy in the internal environment of the body, naturally maintained by adaptive responses that promote health and survival. Various sensing, feedback, and control mechanisms function to affect this steady state, for example heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature to name a few.
Acupuncture needles work as internal communicators as stimulation awakens homeostatic mechanisms, innervates the parasympathetic nervous system, immune system, endocrine (hormone) and circulatory system healing. This interconnected ushering of systems disrupts pain response hyperactivity within a cycle involving tight tissue, acid sensitive nerve growth, increased lactate, low blood oxygen, and chronic inflammation (heat, redness, swelling, and pain).
As needles are retained, increased circulation brings blood, oxygen, nutrients, immune substances, endorphins, and anti-inflammatories to areas of the body that require healing, and one’s biomagnetic and bioelectric energy field is regulated. Inflammatory cytokines, lactic acid, and histamine buildup are released from tissues, especially when bodywork is incorporated such as gua sha and tui na.
How Does Acupuncture Work for Mental Health Imbalances?
Acupuncture is a form of mindfulness meditation, as it allows the individual to engage in being and receiving as the needles guide the mind-body into a deep state of relaxation. Biomedically, acupuncture works with the brain by acting on the nervous system. Inserting a needle stimulates nervous system receptors. The receptor response increases brain firing and creates specific neurochemical changes. This brain and nervous system communication regulates the parasympathetic nervous system, boosts mood through serotonin and dopamine release, and eases tension related pain through relieving muscle constriction and the release of endorphins.
Does Acupuncture Hurt? I’m Scared of Needles. . .
Understand that being needle nervous is completely normal and culturally common, especially for your first appointment, and that people experience differing sensations with acupuncture. Be okay with feeling nervous and keep in mind that once you start to relax and experience its many benefits that the feeling of fear will pass. Once the pins are in place, there should be no significant discomfort and the time spent resting with needles is incredibly relaxing. For example, many of my patients associate their session as meditation time.
Naturally people associate needle pain with past experience with hypodermic needles. You can fit close to 10 acupuncture needles inside tip of 1 hypodermic needle. Acupuncture needles are tiny, thin and flexible, about the size of cats whisker.
Higher end, quality needles have better needle tip geometry thus produce little to no sensation when inserted. When the pins are first inserted you may feel a tiny prick, and then the sensation will quickly fade within 2 - 30 seconds. You may initially feel a relaxing grabbing or pulling sensation, called 'de qi' (needle sensation), a needle qi propagation sensation, slight tingling, buzzing, warmth or coolness, and/or a nourishing 'heaviness' surrounding the needle. These are normal sensations and suggest that treatment is working. Some patients get used to this within one treatment and others within a few sessions.
If you do feel as though certain points are more tender this could mean that there is more of an energetic blockage in the area, or that it is near more nerve endings. Insertion can be more sensitive if you are going through a high stress phase in your life as connective tissue tenses in response. They can also feel more 'pinchy' if you are near or on your period.
If you have a history of a deep fear of needles in combination with fainting, inquire about other forms of treatment such as acupressure, diet therapy, cupping, tuina, and gua sha.
I hope my post has given you insight today. If you’re interested in nutrition and acupuncture I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online or call 250-590-4341. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
Wishing you love & vitality,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC