According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Vol.12/No.7), Acupuncture has become an important provider-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment. It is increasingly clinically proven to help in many conditions, leading with muscular skeletal and neurological conditions, migraine headaches as well as arthritis. It is also successful in treating gastro-intestinal diseases, auto-immune disorders, infertility, menopause symptoms, insomnia, anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Acupuncture treatments are safe, effective and much less painful as many believe it to be. In fact, most of my patients fall asleep during the twenty to thirty minute treatment. There are no major side effects as with many pharmaceutical or invasive protocols. On the contrary, many people find that they come in with a specific concern and then not only find relief in this area, but feel improvement in other areas as well. A patient may come in for elbow pain and may find that he sleeps better and that his indigestion has subsided. We call this the “positive side effects” of acupuncture!
So what are those “positive side effects” and how does Acupuncture cause them?
Many of the reported improvements involve better sleep, stress resilience and increased energy.
One of the mechanisms, for example, is the release of endorphins. The word endorphins comes from endogenous, meaning inside the body, and morphine, an opiate pain reliever. Therefore it is the body’s pain-relieving hormone. However aside from relieving pain, endorphins also boost pleasure, reduce stress and anxiety, regulate appetite and create an overall sense of well-being.
Acupuncture also regulates the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is involved in mood, sleep, pain, appetite and digestion. Norepinephrine is involved in our fight and flight response and acupuncture aids in the activation of the parasympathetic – the part that puts us at ease and induces “Rest and Digest” functions. As a patient, you can actually notice this activation when your stomach begins to make gurgling noises after the insertion of needles. This signals the engagement of the vagus nerve and the dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Many patients will experience a deep state of relaxation during the treatments, something we acupuncturists call an “acu-nap”! This state balances the body to self regulate and strengthen the immune system.
While it may take several treatments to resolve the original issue a patient came in with, almost everybody reports “positive side effects” of increased energy, better sleep and overall improved well-being after the first treatment already!
I recommend “tune-up”, or maintenance treatments every 4-6 weeks to balance the body and to prevent problems that would later need “fixing”!