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What is known about acupuncture?

Numerous scientific studies in animals and humans have shown that acupuncture can cause various biological responses. These responses can occur locally, e.g., close to the site of application, or mediated mainly by sensory neurons to the structures in the central nervous system. This can lead to activating pathways affecting various physiological mechanism in the central and peripheral nervous systems. A focus of attention has been the role of endogenous opioids in acupuncture pain killing effect. Considerable evidence backs the statement that opioid peptides are discharged during acupuncture procedure and that the analgesic effects of acupuncture are at least partially explained by their activities. That opioid antagonists such as naloxone turn around the analgesic effects of acupuncture further reinforces this claim. Acupuncture stimulus may also turn on the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a wide range of systemic effects. Alteration in the emission of neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally, have been recognized. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture. However, which of these changes generate clinical effects is currently not clear.

In spite of significant efforts to understand the anatomy and physiology of the “Acu points”, the definition of the points remain not universally acknowledged. Even more hard to pin down is the scientific basis of certain key traditional Eastern medical concepts such as Qi, the meridians, and other related theories, which are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information however continue to have an important role in evaluating patients and in the formulation of acupuncture treatment.

It should be stressed that for any therapeutic procedure therapy, including acupuncture, the so-called “non-specific” effects account for a considerable portion of its effectiveness and thus should not be casually ignored. Numerous elements may profoundly influence therapeutic outcome, including the quality of the relationship between the clinician and patient, the compatibility of the backgrounds and belief systems of the clinician and the patient, etc..

Although a lot remains unclear regarding the mechanisms that affect the therapeutic effect of acupuncture, so many substantial acupuncture-related biological changes are identified and carefully delineated. Further research in this field not only is important for explaining the incidents associated with acupuncture, but also is important for studying new pathways in human physiology not previously explored in a systematic way.

Britannia Acupuncture Clinic website covers more information on therapeutic acupuncture.

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