Acupuncture Basics: What It Is, How It Works And What It Treats

Peri-Natal Psychiatry | Wellness
Smiling Woman Receiving Acupuncture

Acupuncture Basics

Since its inception in China 2500 years ago, acupuncture has been practiced to benefit overall health, and to treat various illnesses. Acupuncture is a very interesting, complex and useful technique. This post will review acupuncture basics, and part two of this series will explore acupuncture to improve fertility in greater detail.

In addition to improving overall health and wellness, acupuncture benefits the following conditions (this is an abridged list):

  1. Emotional Disorders

    1. Anxiety
    2. Depression
    3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    4. Chronic stress
    5. Insomnia
  2. Digestive Complaints

    1. Nausea
    2. Vomiting
    3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    4. Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
    5. Chronic ulcers
    6. Reflux/GERD
  3. Pain

    1. Chronic lower back pain
    2. Dental pain
    3. Fibromyalgia
    4. Post-operative pain
    5. Acute injuries
  4. Neurological disorders

    1. Migraines
    2. Parkinson’s disease
    3. Post-stroke rehabilitation
  5. Chronic inflammatory and degenerative disorders

    1. Osteoarthritis
    2. Rheumatoid arthritis
    3. Autoimmune diseases
  6. Pregnancy related

    1. Enhances conception
    2. Female or male infertility
    3. Reduction of miscarriage rate
    4. Morning sickness
    5. Perinatal anxiety
  7.  Gynecologic conditions

    1. Endometriosis
    2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
    3. Severe PMS / Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
    4. Irregular menstrual bleeding and menstrual pain
  8. Respiratory conditions

    1. Seasonal allergies
    2. Sinusitis
    3. Asthma

As an alternative treatment, acupuncture can be highly beneficial for reduction of pain, improvement of anxiety and depression, and to improve various hormone-mediated illnesses. Acupuncture is also one of the most effective alternative treatments for infertility, either alone or in conjuncture with assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Insemination (IVF).

How does acupuncture work?

Chinese medicine believes that acupuncture is beneficial by altering and modifying the flow of energy, known as chi or qi, through the insertion of thin, sterile needles into specific points that run along the medians or pathways of energy. By accessing these pathways, the needles allow the body to readjust the imbalanced or blocked flow of energy and heal the associated ills.

Western medicine considers biological mechanisms to explain the benefit of acupuncture. Studies have found modification of the release of stress hormones from the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis, and improvement of blood flow to various organs being treated. Some theories suggest that inserting needles into the connective tissue, called fascia, in one area of the body taps into the deep nerve roots, sending signals to the brain that essentially trick it into believing there is a trauma occurring to that area. As a result, there is a responsive increase in energy to the perceived site of injury, and this in turn leads to healing.

Research published in Nature Neuroscience from 2010 found increases in the pain-relieving amino acid adenosine in response to acupuncture. Further research supporting this finding was published in the Journal of Pain in 2012.


Part two of this post will be about the benefits of acupuncture for conception and as a primary or adjunct treatment of infertility.


Until next time, be well and take care of yourself.

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