A study funded by the Army and the National Institutes of Health helps explain how acupuncture eases chronic pain. Using brain imaging, the study showed that acupuncture increases the availability of receptors in the brain that process and weaken pain signals. Moreover, acupuncture treatments – in this case twice a week for four weeks – affect both the brain’s short- and long-term ability to reduce pain sensation.
A beneficial implication of this research – published in August 2009 by the University of Michigan Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center – is that patients treated with acupuncture might be more responsive to pain medications like codeine and Vicodin.
Other studies have shown that acupuncture triggers a variety of physiological responses, such as:
✔ Stimulating the immune system and increasing white blood cells, which defend the body against infection
✔ Decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides
✔ Regulating blood sugar metabolism, which helps the body use energy more efficiently
✔ Increasing blood circulation and producing beneficial changes in blood pressure
✔ Increasing stomach peristaltic activity and regulating digestive fluids, thereby improving digestion
✔ Regulating and stimulating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is directly related to sleep, appetite, and mood