“I was hoping you could tell me!”
In all honesty, the easiest answer we can offer in biomedical terms is that no one has a definitive explanation. But many have taken a stab (pun intended) at explaining it.
Here is what we do know:
Acupuncture promotes blood flow. This is key because blood contains the oxygen, nutrients, immune substances, hormones, analgesics and anti-inflammatories the body needs in order to heal. For example: a decrease in blood flow by as little as 3% in the breast area can lead to breast cancer.
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s built-in healing mechanisms by creating ‘micro-traumas’. These tiny “injuries” stimulate the body’s ability to heal tissue injuries through our nervous system, our immune system and our hormones. As the body heals these traumas, it also heals any surrounding tissue damage leftover from old injuries, boom!
Acupuncture releases natural painkillers. When the needles get inserted, it signals the brain to release chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin, some of which are 10-200 times more potent than morphine! Tense muscles? Acupuncture relaxes them, which in turn releases pressure on joint structures and nerves, and promotes blood flow.
And last but not least, acupuncture reduces stress. This is huge! It does this by stimulating our parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” nervous system. An impaired parasympathetic function is involved in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
In a nutshell: acupuncture works by stimulating the peripheral nervous system. It heals us by relieving pain, reducing inflammation and restoring homeostasis. It brings our body back into balance and makes us feel on point 😉