How does Acupuncture work?

In everyday language

Acupuncture activates the body’s natural self-healing mechanism. It helps the body to get more out of the resources that it already has, bringing the person’s whole system more into a state of balance, and so regaining the upper hand on a problem and reducing symptoms.

From a Western medical perspective

Acupuncture is understood to work through stimulating the nervous system. This gives rise to both local effects and systemic effects.

  • Local effects – pain receptors near the needle are inhibited and local circulation is increased.
  • Systemic effects – local nerve fibres conduct impulses to the spinal cord and brain. These nerve fibres inhibit incoming pain signals and stimulate the release of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides such as serotonin and endorphins, which encourage pain relief and relaxation.

It has been suggested by research that the feeling of relaxation that comes with acupuncture may be brought about through the release of oxytocin, a hormone which has an anti-stress effect.


From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine sees health at the levels of body, mind and spirit are seen as inter-related and always looks at any problem within the context of the person’s overall health and constitution. Pain, illness and any type of dis-ease are understood to arise from a disruption or imbalance in the flow of qi (pronounced ‘chee’), the vital energy that is seen as underlying all physiological processes. The task of a traditional acupuncturist is to identify the particular nature of the imbalance underlying a problem and from this, select an appropriate combination of acupuncture points to redress the disharmony and restore the balanced flow of qi, reducing symptoms, bringing relaxation and a greater overall sense of wellbeing.

Find out what to expect from an acupuncture session >