How does acupuncture work?


Two of the most common questions I hear: how does acupuncture work, and what can it help with?


Acupuncture releases blockages and restores harmonious flow. Traditional Chinese medical theory helps us understand how acupuncture points, herbal therapy, and movement medicine can address specific disease processes even before they manifest. When our bodily systems and organs are able to work together in harmony, the body is better able to repair itself.


Chinese medical theory operates within a different scientific paradigm than traditional Western medicine. That said, with the explosion of research interest in acupuncture in the last twenty or thirty years, we are coming to understand how acupuncture affects the body in traditional Western medical terms.


Research shows that acupuncture triggers a number of physiological responses in the body. For example, acupuncture can:

  • Increase the availability of receptors in the brain which interpret and weaken pain signals.

  • Affect the brain’s short and long-term capacity to reduce pain signals.

  • Induce neuroplastic changes in the central nervous system, which can support depression.

  • Regulate and “tone” the nervous system to support resilience to stress.

  • Regulate and stimulate serotonin, a neurotransmitter which enables deep sleep, a healthy appetite, and balanced mood.

  • Reduce the production of inflammation-promoting substances.

  • Stimulate the immune system and increase white blood cells, which fight infection.

  • Regulate blood sugar metabolism.

  • Improve digestive processes by regulating fluids and increasing peristaltic activity.

  • Decrease cholesterol and triglycerides.

  • Promote the circulation of blood and oxygen in local tissue to relieve pain and quicken healing.

With such wide-ranging beneficial effects, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are able to treat a vast list of conditions.


Betsy Gordon Acupuncture in Portland, OR specializes in holistic dermatology and the treatment of digestive, autoimmune, and allergic conditions. Schedule a free consultation online or by calling (971) 341-9546.

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