Is there a scientific basis to acupuncture?

A : Tests and observations by Western medicine have proven that acupuncture points have a wide variety of unique electrical and physical attributes. Stimulation of such points creates definite physiological responses, such as change in heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, blood chemistry, endocrine function, intestinal activity and immunological reaction.


Biochemical Defense Mechanism: The microscopic prick of an acupuncture needle creates a site of injury at the cellular level. The body’s response to injury is a release of chemicals vital to cellular repair. In this way, an acupuncture needle insertion fools the body into thinking it has been invaded by a foreign object and both tissue and cellular biochemical defense mechanisms are initiated. This helps to reduce local inflammation and relieve pain. 

Endorphins: Acupuncture and shiatsu stimulate the body to produce its own pain-relieving chemicals called "endorphins", which are also known as "anti-stress hormones".

Gate Control Theory: Pain is transmitted from the periphery to the brain via the spinal cord. There is a mechanism (or "gate") at work in the spinal cord, which stops pain messages from reaching the brain. The insertion of the thin needles of acupuncture or the holding pressure of shiatsu can close this gate, thus lessening the sensation of pain. Endorphins (above) can also block pain pathways by acting on these gates.

Electrical Conduction: It has been noted that acupuncture points have different electrical potentials than other areas of the body. It is not known exactly why these different electrical potentials exist but research suggests that acupuncture, on one level, works by affecting electrical conduction in the body. Research into this phenomenon continues. 

Autonomic Nervous System: The autonomic nervous system is responsible for coordinating and conducting all of the body's involuntary functions. Acupuncture and shiatsu "turn on" the conserving, healing function of the autonomic nervous system while overriding the fight-or-flight function which, when overactive, puts a great deal of wear and tear on our bodies and minds. 

Trigger Point Theory: Through clinical research, western physicians have discovered specific points of tension in the body that, when released, are particularly effective in the alleviation of musculo-skeletal pain. The locations of these points remarkably correlate with the acupuncture points of oriental medicine.