The mechanisms of acupuncture, though not fully understood, have exhibited several commonly accepted effects to the body. Most notable is that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system—the brain and spinal cord. Most people report a tingling sensation, feeling relaxed or even energized.
Acupuncture is thought to operate by:
Release of opioid peptides. Opioids are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that have an analgesic effect. The release of these opioids plays a significant role in the reduction of pain. There has been considerable evidence to support that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, releasing these chemicals.
Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters
and neurohormones. Acupuncture is said to activate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and thereby alter secretion of these chemicals. These particular chemicals play a direct role in the sensation of pain as well as the activity of an organ or organs. Evidence has shown that acupuncture alters this secretion in a manner that reduces pain. Documentation has also shown that acupuncture positively affects immune functions in the body.
Stimulation of electromagnetic points on the body. The 2,000 points of the body that acupuncture focuses on are theorized to be strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulation of these areas is believed to start the flow of endorphins—the body's natural painkillers.
While there are many experts in the medical field who believe acupuncture is an effective way to treat certain conditions, there is no true consensus. Some define the benefits of acupuncture within the realm of traditional Chinese paradigms involving Qi (vital energy) and Meridians (Qi pathways). Others understand and attribute acupuncture's benefits to certain scientific and biological changes they bring about in the body (as mentioned above).