You’re not alone if you’re wondering- is there something in the needles? The short answer to your question is no, there isn’t anything in the needles. Our needles are solid which means they do not contain any medication or chemicals. That’s really cool because acupuncture works with your body instead of doing something to your body. Acupuncture is a gentle and natural process and optimal results occur over time. There are little to no side effects and its affordable! When you see a doctor, they give you medication or perform surgery which is using something from the outside to help you get better. With acupuncture, we are helping your body to heal itself and utilize that natural healing power in a more efficient and effective way. For example, this is why many times people are able to cut back on their medications because their body will need less to achieve the same result. You would of course do this under the guidance of your doctor.
So how exactly does acupuncture work? Acupuncture works in 3 primary ways.
The first way is that it switches your body from the fight or flight mode into rest and digest mode. When our bodies are under stress, there is a reaction inside our bodies which prepares us for immediate survival. Our muscles tense up, our heart beat quickens and we go on high alert. This is useful when we have to get out of a scary situation- we are ready to fight or run away. However when we have chronic, ongoing stress our bodies can get stuck in this fight or flight mode which makes it difficult for us to relax, sleep or heal ourselves. We become irritable and our muscles become tight and tense. Acupuncture shuts off this stress response and switches us into rest and digest mode which means that we can sleep, relax, digest our food normally and focus on healing.
The second way that acupuncture works is that specific acupuncture locations, or acupuncture points, have specific functions. For example we have points that focus on particular body parts. There is a point on the ankle which addresses the lower back and there is a point on the knee that treats tendons. There are points for pain, to reduce inflammation, promote sleep, even boost the immune system. Your acupuncturist will choose the best combination of points to suit your treatment plan and health goals.
The third way that acupuncture works is that it increases neuroplasticity- or the ability of our brains to change. Our understanding of how the human brain works has increased dramatically - we now understand the human brain has the ability to change, much like a muscle. The more we engage in certain behaviors, for example exercise, the more connections are made around this behavior, creating a habit or a routine. This can also work in negative ways for example when people have chronic pain it creates a feedback loop in the brain to wire the brain to experience more pain. Acupuncture helps to break these negative loops in the brain that chronic pain or trauma can create.
Thank you so much for reading! We love answering your questions.
Meaghan Massella, M.Ac, L.Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM) is an acupuncturist, business owner and mother of 2.