How Does Acupuncture Work?

In the spirit of September’s animal pain awareness month, we’d like to share with you a little about how acupuncture helps alleviate pain. If you’re like me, you’ve heard a lot about how various ailments have been treated successfully by acupuncture (especially pain), and you’ve wondered how it is that acupuncture can help.

The answer, put simply and in western medical terms, is fascia. Fascia is thin connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, tendons, bones, and internal organs. The fascia serves as a conduit, or superhighway, along which travels blood vessels, nerves, fluid, and neurotransmitters. Because fascia surrounds all the structures in the body, it therefore CONNECTS all the structures in the body. For this reason, needling along the spine can benefit the internal organs, or needling along a hind limb can reduce nausea – because everything is connected.

Now because everything is connected by fascia, a problem with a specific organ or joint, may not just affect that single structure, but can then create problems within the fascia. For example, mild arthritis in the hip may initially create some constriction of the surrounding muscles and fascia. Then over time, the dysfunction along the hip creates changes to the muscles and fascia along the spine. This dysfunction can then continue to spread, affecting the cervical spine.

So what started with primarily a hip problem has now become a body-wide problem. Now how does acupuncture help?? When muscles and fascial layers become dysfunctional, they develop taught bands of tissue (a “trigger point”). These are painful and essential represent muscle fibers that are constantly in a contracted state – this hurts! The beautiful thing, however, is that a simple needle inserted into a trigger point can release those taught fibers. The needle creates a spinal reflex, and immediately relaxes that contracted muscle fibers. Once the muscle fibers relax, the rest of the body follows suit.

This is a very simplified version of events, but essentially this is how it all works, all thanks to fascia – the body’s unifying force.

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