How Does Acupuncture Affect the Nervous System?
Acupuncture is a treatment that uses needles to alleviate pain and muscle soreness — but did you know it does so by stimulating the nervous system? Acupuncture is a popular form of integrative medicine, but the science behind the needles isn’t generally learned. We’re an acupuncture clinic in Central Florida that want you to know about the inner workings of acupuncture and the benefits of integrative medicine:
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine integrates alternative medicine and conventional medicine to deliver effective treatment methods that everyone can get behind. You likely know of many integrative medicine treatments like aromatherapy, massage therapy, mediation, animal-assisted therapy, and acupuncture (of course).
This type of medicine is widely accepted because it incorporates evidence-based and experience-based therapies. Not only do countless studies show the benefits of acupuncture, but many of our clients continue to seek treatments because they’ve personally experienced the positive effect acupuncture has had on their bodies.
Acupuncture and the Nervous System
Acupuncture is a holistic way to stimulate the nervous system with little to no side effects (except for the occasional bruising and sore muscles). There are other treatment options that will stimulate the nervous system, but those can come with unpleasant side effects. If you’re already experiencing nervous tics or nervous stomach issues, the last thing you want is to replace one uncomfortable ailment for another.
How Does Acupuncture Stimulate the Nervous System?
The tiny needles are placed on acupoints — these are specific points on the body that act as the pathway for qi (the Chinese term for energy). As we mentioned previously, acupuncture is a form integrative medicine. Even if you don’t practice traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is proven to stimulate the nervous system.
Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system by placing needles on specific points of the body — these acupoints release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. Essentially, acupuncture stimulates the body to release endorphins to specific areas of that body (alleviating pain and changing how the body responds to pain).
Acupuncture and the Central Nervous System
There are two primary components of the nervous system — the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. What does the central nervous system do? The central nervous system is responsible for most body and mind functions. It also contains the brain and the spinal cord, so it’s certainly an essential part of bodily function.
The Healthcare Medicine Institute cited multiple research studies that conclude acupuncture positively affects the brain: “Acupuncture regulates the autonomic nervous system by affecting specific activities in the hypothalamus, medulla oblongata, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex of the brain.”
The central nervous system is also responsible for responding to stress triggers, so acupuncture is a remarkable treatment to regulate the nervous system and treat physical symptoms of stress.
Acupuncture is used to help treat central nervous system disorders like addiction, autoimmune diseases, epilepsy, migraines, and multiple sclerosis.
Acupuncture and the Peripheral Nervous System
Acupuncture helps with both parts of the nervous system! The peripheral nervous system is responsible for all of the other nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. Acupuncture restimulates and preserves the body’s nerves.
This part of the nervous system is best known for acting as the body’s pathway to relay information between the brain and the body. The peripheral nervous system has two parts: the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system. We know this may get a little confusing — the nervous system is quite complex! The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling involuntary bodily functions and is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Since acupuncture stimulates the nerves in the body, there is a decrease in sympathetic activity and an increase in parasympathetic activity within the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body’s rest and digest state (which lowers stress and anxiety).
The sympathetic system controls what is commonly called the fight or flight response. This response occurs when the body identifies a stressful stimulus it believes it should defend itself from. After identifying the stressor, the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to protect itself by rapidly producing stress and energy spurts.
Some people have an overactive sympathetic nervous system, leaving them under constant stress and worry. These people should seek acupuncture treatments to reduce the sympathetic activity in their bodies. Acupuncture provides a much-needed release for those struggling with built-up anxiety, stress, and pain.
If you’d like to lower your stress levels, become calmer and be pain free by using acupuncture and are in Central Florida, please reach out to us!