How DOES Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is often dismissed by western scientists because they don’t understand how it works. That’s understandable. Chinese medicine practitioners talk a different language. We ramble on about Qi, Zang Fu organs, channels, extraordinary vessels and the like. But, at the end of the day, we’re treating the same body and there is plenty of evidence that acupuncture works well for a wide range of conditions (see my “Does Acupuncture Work” blog).

Recently a couple of respected Swedish scientists * had a good look at how acupuncture works. They found it was hard to give a single explanation – because there’s a lot going on! Here are just some of their findings………

Acupuncture Improves Blood Flow

Inserting needles causes fibres to be stimulated that release neuropeptides to increase blood flow. Neuropeptides are little things that tell your brain cells what to do. Acupuncture can also improve insulin sensitivity, increasing the glucose uptake in muscles which can then be used for energy.

Acupuncture can help stress related diseases


Stress doesn’t just make us feel bad. Long-term stress affects our health. Amongst other things, it can cause problems with sleep, digestion, blood pressure, and heart health.

When you’re stressed the ‘fight or flight’ part of your nervous system releases a neuropeptide called Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).  High levels of this little critter have been found in stress-related organ diseases. Acupuncture has been shown to bring NGF back to normal level.

Acupuncture can regulate hormones and metabolism

Inserting needles causes nerves at the edges of your body to send signals to your central nervous system. Parts of the central nervous system regulate hormones, chemical messengers that attach to our cells in the different systems in our body and tell them what to do.


Acupuncture changes how the brain works

Your brain creates neuronal networks; groups of cells that work together. You may have heard the phrase “cells that fire together wire together”. Repetition causes connections between brain cells so that we don’t have to work so hard to reproduce an action next time around. Think about learning to drive or learning a language; it becomes almost automatic. That’s great, but we have other automatic responses that aren’t always so welcome, including emotional responses such as anxiety, and how we experience pain. Inserting a needle in the right place can help to change these responses.


Your brain and the rest of your nervous system, together with hormones, work constantly to keep your body in equilibrium.  This equilibrium can be maintained by acupuncture, explaining how it can treat a wide range of conditions. If you’d like to know a bit more about how acupuncture could help you take a look at the links at the side of my website or call me for a chat about your health.


 * Lund,I ;Lundeberg,T (2016)