What Exactly is Acupuncture, and Does it Really Work?

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Acupuncture has been an essential practice in traditional Chinese medicine for over 3000 years, but only recently has it become popular in the West. Initially considered an alternative treatment, even the mainstream medical community has begun to embrace acupuncture over the last few years, and several scientific studies have pointed toward its efficacy for stress relief and pain management. But what exactly is acupuncture, and how does it work? Keep reading to find out.

At the core of acupuncture lies the belief that we can balance vital energy in the body, sometimes referred to as “qi,” by stimulating points on pathways known as meridians. To do this, acupuncture practitioners will insert tiny needles into specific points depending on the concerns and symptoms of the patient. These needles are approximately twice the width of a human hair, and most people experience them as relatively painless.

From a scientific perspective, modern research suggests that acupuncture may trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. It’s also thought to enhance the activity of  neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine that play a key role in our ability to cope with stress, allowing for more effective mood regulation and decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

If you’re considering giving acupuncture a try but aren’t quite sure that it’s right for you, talk to your doctor to see how it could fit into your current healthcare routine.