Balancing the Central Nervous System:
Acupuncture is a stimulus therapy. What does it stimulate? The simple answer: our central nervous system (CNS). The effect of Acupuncture stimulation of the CNS is biphasic. The initial phase activates the sympathetic branch of the nervous system. After 15-20 minutes of Acupuncture stimulation, sympathetic tone decreases and parasympathetic tone increases. This biphasic effect on the central nervous system (CNS) re-establishes or resets the balance between the sympathetic (Yang) and parasympathetic (Yin) branches of the CNS. A balanced CNS is critical to how we respond to stress, regulate cortisol levels in the blood, and maintain proper endocrine function.
Changes in Brain Neurochemistry:
Acupuncture therapy increases the activity of a number of neurotransmitters - proteins your brain synthesizes - which profoundly affect our perception of pain, can alter or change our mood, and sense of well being. For example, Acupuncture stimulation causes the release of endogenous opoids (Endorphins, Enkaphalins, Dynorphins, etc). These are chemical analogues to morphine and are powerful pain modulating substances. In addition, Acupuncture stimulation is associated with the increased release or activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter often targeted in depression. As a result, patients often feel a reduction in pain and sense of calm and well being following Acupuncture treatment.
Local Effects on Muscles:
Most people have experienced muscle tightness, 'knots', etc and subsequent pain. Muscle is composed of a number of different fibers, and the fibers work like a 'zipper' as they contract and relax. Sometimes muscles stop 'un-zipping' and remain in this contracted state - often due to an initial injury or micro-injuries. Acupuncture stimulates the fascial layer of muscle tissue and promotes a gentle, wave-like contraction/relaxation of the muscle. Net effect: the muscle fibers 'reset' and unzip.