Don’t Be a Prick: A Neurological Evaluation of Acupuncture

In a society focussed on western medicine we are taught to turn our noses up at traditional eastern forms of healing. This is a huge oversight! Eastern techniques have been providing relief for people for thousands of years. 

When I first learned about acupuncture I was quite skeptical! I mean, you’re telling me that you can heal me by sticking me with a bunch of needles? Not for me! Oh how close-minded I had been. In a society focussed on western medicine we are taught to turn our noses up at traditional eastern forms of healing. This is a huge oversight! Eastern techniques have been providing relief for people for thousands of years. 

More recently, the scientific community began studying the effects of acupuncture. Through research on animal models we have learned that the insertion of needles into specific “acupoints” on the body can cause abnormal neural firing patterns (Cheng, 2014). These altered patterns lead to activation and inhibition of different regions of the brain, seen through neuroimaging  (Bai & Lao, 2013).

Today, we know acupuncture and electroacupuncture (acupuncture with subsequent electric stimulation) have been found to produce clinically significant effects on patients (Napadow, Beissner, Lin, Chae, & Harris, 2020) . I love to talk about this topic because it highlights an important lesson: just because you don't understand something does not necessarily make it invalid. We are learning new things all the time! While it is important to be skeptical, we must also work to be open to the possibilities!

Sources:

  • Bai, L., & Lao, L. (2013). Neurobiological Foundations of Acupuncture: The Relevance and Future Prospect Based on Neuroimaging Evidence. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/812568
  • Cheng, K. J. (2014). Neurobiological Mechanisms of Acupuncture for Some Common Illnesses: A Clinician's Perspective. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 7(3), 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2013.07.008
  • Napadow, V., Beissner, F., Lin, Y., Chae, Y., & Harris, R. E. (2020). Editorial: Neural Substrates of Acupuncture: From Peripheral to Central Nervous System Mechanisms. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.01419


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