How Does Acupuncture Work?

Avatar for Clare Zivanovic By in acupuncture, how does acupuncture work on 17/03/2023
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Have you ever wondered: HOW does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that’s stood the test of time. Trusted around the world, it’s one of Australia’s top natural therapy choices for chronic pain. Even so, most people don’t understand how it affects the body or why it works. Is it all science, all woo-woo, or a mix of both?
If you’ve pondered this question, we have the answers you seek. Let’s look at the benefits, how it works, and whether it has a legitimate scientific basis for healing.

acupuncture treatment

How Does Acupuncture Work To Improve Health And Wellness?

Acupuncture has been used for 2,000+ years.

It involves inserting small, thin needles into acupuncture points. Importantly, these points are in all parts of your body and each connects to meridians (energy lines). Their purpose is to stimulate life force, called Qi (pronounced chee), that flows through you.

😊 Free flowing Qi = Healthy body, mind, spirit

☹️ Blocked or Stagnant Qi = Prone to dis-ease and pain

Thus, acupuncture nurtures the quality, strength and movement of your life force.

Now that you understand the basics of acupuncture philosophy, you may be wondering:

How does acupuncture work SCIENTIFICALLY?

Glad you asked!

Scientific studies show that acupuncture benefits the nervous and endocrine systems. It does this by stimulating:

  • Anti-inflammatory chemicals
  • Endorphins that reduce pain, decrease stress and enhance feelings of wellbeing
  • Specialised neurotransmitters that minimise pain sensitivity
  • Substances that optimise cellular communication and healing.

How Acupuncture Treatment Helps The Body Heal

Acupuncture often leaves you feeling relaxed.
Like, really relaxed.
Feeling totally chilled after a session is just one acupuncture benefit. It occurs because acupoints speak the language of your body. Basically, they ask it to release a bunch of feel-good substances.
When you’re feeling good, your:
  • life force increases
  • pain decreases
  • body begins to heal.

If you’re more science-minded though, you may be pondering:

HOW does acupuncture work to relieve pain?

Well, it begins with the process described above.
Then, it’s all about using points that reduce inflammation. This helps improve the healing flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients. It also stimulates the release of pain-relieving chemicals. Plus, it decreases the sensitivity of your nerve endings.

What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?

If you’ve never experienced acupuncture, here’s what it’s like:

Firstly, you begin by lying (or sitting) on an acupuncture table.

Then, your practitioner locates the acupuncture points you need and carefully reaches for the needles.

Sometimes, needle insertion feels like nothing at all.

However, there are times when you may feel a sensation, pressure or ache in the area. If this happens, it’s often a sign the needle has grasped the meridian’s energy very quickly. And that deep healing is underway.

After each needle is inserted, your practitioner may gently twist it to further stimulate the healing energy.

Next, you get to relax in a space of your own for 15-20 mins. Then, your needles are carefully removed.

Note: Some acupuncturists have swapped tiny needles for a special electroacupuncture machine.


electroacupuncture treatment

How Effective Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an effective way to support physical and mental health, especially pain. An abundance of studies have shown this to be fact. That’s why many health organisations recommend acupuncture as a viable treatment option.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is one such organisation that recognises acupuncture can help treat chronic pain. They house many study papers that link acupuncture with lower pain scores, including:

A 2018 study that involved 8,003 participants with back or neck pain. Results noted that acupuncture was more effective than no treatment at all. Additionally, they discovered its pain-relieving benefits are comparable to NSAIDs, without the side effects.

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture supports allopathic and osteopathic doctors using evidence-based acupuncture in their skillset. Accordingly, they champion these doctors for using acupuncture to treat pain, pregnancy symptoms, digestive problems and more.

Acupuncture treatment

What Are The Benefits Of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has the potential to benefit all of the systems in your body.

Depending on the number of treatments you receive, acupuncture needling can help with:

Physical Health

Mental Health

If you’re wondering how to get the most benefit, it’s best to ask acupuncture practitioners about when to get acupuncture. They are the experts who can guide you along your healing journey.

Need help finding an acupuncturist in your area?

Avaana is connected with hundreds of professionals who can help you heal.

Click here to find an Acupuncturist near you

Avatar for Clare Zivanovic

Clare Zivanovic is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist. She's been part of the health industry since 1999, and has shared her wisdom on commercial television, podcasts and in best-selling health magazines. Clare is also proud to have published a popular children's book called Superfood Attitude.