Acupuncture is the most commonly known aspect of Chinese Medicine in the western world. It is integral part of a medicine dating back three thousand years, and yet remarkably it is still widely practiced, growing in popularity, and continuously evolving today. Acupuncture does not add any medicine to the body, but rather it aids the body’s amazing natural ability to heal and regenerate itself. Extremely thin needles are used to stimulate a combination of precisely selected acupuncture points by a trained professional to open energetic blockages, promote blood flow, strengthen weak areas, and sedate overly active areas of the body. The powerful affects are observed everyday treating ailments including emotional imbalances, digestive problems, internal organ health, common colds, skin issues, orthopedic problems including sports injury recovery, fertility concerns, sleeping troubles, addiction, menstrual irregularities, and much more.
Acupuncture and The Autonomic Nervous System
When thinking about acupuncture from a western perspective it is helpful to discuss the autonomic nervous system. It is important to understand that this in no way explains the entirety of the vast therapeutic mechanisms of acupuncture. However, it is one aspect of acupuncture that western medicine can readily understand without requiring a deep dive into Chinese medical theory and for that it is a valuable discussion.
Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) has two main divisions, sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is known as the “fight or flight” state while the parasympathetic is referred to as the “rest and digest” state. Both systems are important, but in modern society we tend to spend far too much time in a sympathetic state. This is due to the constant stressors of work, traffic/commuting, bills, social pressures, emotional taxing twenty-four hour news cycles, and so on which have increased in recent times at rates far beyond what our evolutionary abilities can keep up with.
Acupuncture excels at bringing the body out of this sympathetic state and into a parasympathetic one where self healing most readily happens. In a parasympathetic state the body’s immune system can more effectively fight off bacterias, viruses, and cancer cells. Also, the body can better regenerate at the cellular level to recover from injury both external and internal. Furthermore, emotions can move more freely and are more readily processed in a healthy manner. All of which contribute to the body’s ability to heal itself before series illness can arise.
For further reading about acupuncture and Chinese medical theory there are some wonderful books available. Great reads that I recommend for people new to the subject are: