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Acupuncture Mechanism

Generally speaking, acupuncture improves blood circulation, inhibits inflammation, relieves neuropathic and visceral pain, calms down the nervous system, and accelerates tissue repair.

 

But what makes acupuncture so powerful? At this point, there is no unified theory of acupuncture. Multiple mechanisms have been proposed.

Gate Control

An early attempt to explain acupuncture analgesia, this theory postulates that dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons are inhibited by acupuncture, thus interrupting the pain signal to the brain.

 

Local Effect

Needle insertion triggers a myofascial release of contracted muscle fibers. This instantaneous effect is harnessed by medical doctors and physical therapists in trigger point therapy.

 

Axon Reflex

Acupuncture needle stimulates the nerves in the local tissues. This causes the release of neuropeptides, such as calcitonin gene-related peptide and nitric oxide (NO), resulting in vasodilation and increased circulation locally

Interstitial Response

There seems to be a correspondence between the traditional acupuncture channels (“Meridians”) and the inter-muscular connective tissue (myofascial) planes. When a needle penetrates the skin, interstitial connective tissue fibers wind around the needle, affecting electrical conductivity along the whole myofascial kinematic chain.

 

Somatic Autonomic Reflex

Acupuncture stimulation of the skin improves the function of the segmentally related muscles, joints, visceral (internal) organs, blood vessels, and endocrine glands.

Purinergic Signaling

Studies have found that adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) are involved in acupuncture signaling pathways.

Brain Connection

Functional MRI studies demonstrate point specific neurophysiological effects of acupuncture. Furthermore, acupuncture is believed to inhibit the accumulation of toxic proteins, modulate glucose metabolism, depress neuronal apoptosis (death), and exert a wide range of neuroprotective effects on the brain.

Purinergic signaling in acupuncture

Tribute to Prof. Geoffrey Burnstock: his contribution to acupuncture

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Purinergic-hypothesis-on-acupuncture-mechanism

CNS Signaling

Neurotransmitters, such as beta-endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, glutamate, orexin, and endocannabinoids, are thought to be involved in acupuncture action.

Relaxation Response

Imbalances in the autonomic nervous system have been linked to stress and disease. Acupuncture appears to upregulate parasympathetic nervous system, bringing relief from pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

 

Cholinergic Pathway

The vagus (CN 10) nerve is accessible to acupuncture in the ears. Interestingly, significant portions of the Stomach and Spleen Meridians seem to follow the path of the vagus nerve. This phenomenon may explain the systemic immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture.

 

Neuroendocrine Connection

Following acupuncture, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released from the pituitary gland, stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids by the adrenals. Moreover, by acting on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, acupuncture reduces pro-inflammatory cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) levels throughout the whole body.

 

Gut Health

Acupuncture treatments were associated with better gastrointestinal motility, improved gut flora, and enhanced intestinal barrier.

Contact Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine to see how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you and your family.

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References

Aronson, M. (2016). Acupuncture. UpToDate. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acupuncture

Chavez, L. M., Huang, S. S., MacDonald, I., Lin, J. G., Lee, Y. C., & Chen, Y. H. (2017). Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy in Ischemic Stroke Rehabilitation: A Literature Review of Basic Studies. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(11), 2270. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18112270

Huang, W., Pach, D., Napadow, V., Park, K., Long, X., Neumann, J., Maeda, Y., Nierhaus, T., Liang, F., & Witt, C. M. (2012). Characterizing acupuncture stimuli using brain imaging with FMRI--a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature. PloS one, 7(4), e32960. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032960

Lin, J. G., Kotha, P., & Chen, Y. H. (2022). Understandings of acupuncture application and mechanisms. American journal of translational research, 14(3), 1469–1481. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8991130/

Liu, S., Wang, Z., Su, Y., Qi, L., Yang, W., Fu, M., Jing, X., Wang, Y., & Ma, Q. (2021). A neuroanatomical basis for electroacupuncture to drive the vagal-adrenal axis. Nature, 598(7882), 641–645. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04001-4

Ma, Y., Dong, M., Zhou, K., Mita, C., Liu, J., & Wayne, P. M. (2016). Publication Trends in Acupuncture Research: A 20-Year Bibliometric Analysis Based on PubMed. PloS one, 11(12), e0168123. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168123

 

National Institutes of Health. Reporter. NIH, 2021. https://reporter.nih.gov/search/mKd4V-lz_k6p4yQyf1UGyQ/projects

Tang, Y., & Illes, P. (2021). Tribute to Prof. Geoffrey Burnstock: His Contribution to Acupuncture. Purinergic signaling, 17(1), 71–77. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11302-020-09729-8

Xu, J., Xie, H., Liu, L., Shen, Z., Yang, L., Wei, W., Guo, X., Liang, F., Yu, S., & Yang, J. (2022). Brain Mechanism of Acupuncture Treatment of Chronic Pain: An Individual-Level Positron Emission Tomography Study. Frontiers in neurology, 13, 884770. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2022.884770

Zhang, A., Yan, G., Sun, H., Cheng, W., Meng, X., Liu, L., Xie, N., & Wang, X. (2016). Deciphering the Biological Effects of Acupuncture Treatment Modulating Multiple Metabolism Pathways. Scientific reports, 6, 19942. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep19942

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