Acupuncture: The Science behind it

Acupuncture has been practiced as a medical treatment in the Orient for 2,500 years. Nowadays it’s the fastest growing form of alternative therapy in the western world.
Modern science has been conducting research on the acupuncture meridians and points, trying to find mechanisms that explain the effects acupuncture has on the body.
It’s been discovered that acupuncture points have a higher concentration of Nitric Oxide (NO) than the surrounding tissue. NO is a signaling molecule, with a variety of functions ranging from transmission of signals to cell killing. NO relaxes the blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal tract, acts as a neurotransmitter in the central and peripheral nervous system , contributes to the antimicrobial function of some cells, and is involved in blood clotting and hormone release.
Some of the effects of acupuncture are believed to stem from the transmission of biological information through NO. NO is a regulator of local blood flow, because changes in circulation can affect the development and persistence of pain, it is possible that by acupuncture regulating the levels of NO in specific areas it can contribute to pain relief.
In the brain, acupuncture modulates the activity of NO in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain that is responsible for the formation of long-term memory. It is possible; when seeing the changes in the brain that happen in relation to acupuncture stimulation, that memories in post-traumatic stress syndrome causing flash backs of traumatic events could be modulated by acupuncture.

Acupuncture and MRI

New MRI research concludes that needling acupuncture points causes specific brain patterns associated with the treatment of specific diseases. Even when physically located in close proximity, each acupuncture point elicited its own, unique MRI response in the brain.

A wealth of recent MRI research has measured acupuncture point specificity. University of California School of Medicine (Irvine) researchers analyzed MRI based acupuncture studies and concluded that, “Recent evidence shows that stimulation of different points on the body causes distinct responses in blood flow, MRI and electric responses in the nervous system.” The MRI findings demonstrated that “stimulation of different sets of acupoints leads to disease-specific neuronal responses.” The culmination of this research helps us to gain greater understanding as to the mechanisms by which acupuncture exerts its effective actions.

References

Acupuncture enhances generation of nitric oxide and increases local circulation.
Tsuchiya M, Sato EF, InoueM, Asada A. PubMedA Neurovascular Transmission
Model for Acupuncture-induced Nitric Oxide. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Vol 2012(2012), Article ID 781460
Measurement of Location-Dependent Nitric Oxide Levels on Skin Surface in relation to acupuncture points. Yejin Ha, Misun Kim, Jiseon Nah, Minah Suh, and Youngmi Lee.
William R. Morris Acupuncture Neurobiology and the nitric oxide connection. Integrative medicine and acupuncture
New MRI Images Reveal Acupuncture Point Specificity.