This Is Your Brain On Acupuncture


Anyone who’s ever gotten an acupuncture treatment from a Licensed Acupuncturist will tell you that the needles don’t hurt, and they actually create a state of relaxation and immediate pain relief. However, there are still sometimes research studies and news reports that claim “acupuncture doesn’t work.” This happens because our “modern” Western scientists don’t quite understand how acupuncture actually works. However, recent brain imaging studies do show consistently that acupuncture has an immediate, specific effect on the brain.

Depending on which acupuncture points are being stimulated by the needles, different regions of the brain become activated. The cortical and subcortical brain regions (the insula, thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and primary and secondary somatosensory cortices) become activated with acupuncture. The limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (the prefrontal cortex, caudate, amygdala, posterior cingulate cortex, and parahippocampus) is deactivated. These deactivated brain areas modulate pain sensations and pain perceptions. They are also associated with racing thoughts, anxiety, and painful emotions.

The depth of the acupuncture needles also makes a difference in what kind of effect they have on the body. Deep needling is more effective at treating muscle pain and painful trigger points. Superficial needling may be more effective at stimulating beneficial hormone release and producing a feeling of well-being and relaxation.

As evidenced by MRI imaging, superficial needling actually increases blood flow in the front of the brain. On the other hand, deep needling deactivates the pain processing centers in the back of the brain. This is scientific evidence that the beneficial effect of acupuncture is physiological — not psychological (placebo).

If you would like to give acupuncture a try at our clinic in Del Mar, CA, you will surely reach your own conclusion that acupuncture produces a physiological, healing effect.

In 2005, the journal NeuroImage published a study stating that researchers has found that acupuncture increases brain activity in the cerebral cortex (your region of higher learning and critical thinking; the rational mind). Though modern scientists don’t quite understand what this means, the ancient Chinese Medicine textbooks do! These brain imaging studies do provide solid evidence to modern scientists that acupuncture is not just a placebo.

There are now literally thousands of acupuncturists, medical doctors, and chiropractors who are utilizing some form of acupuncture treatment in their medical practices. However, the health insurance industry has been hesitant to offer reimbursement for such therapies because of a “lack of evidence.” This is clearly a problem for many patients who have felt the benefits of regular acupuncture treatments. Hopefully soon this will change, as more studies begin to reach the conclusion that acupuncture works! For acupuncture near La Jolla, CA, please contact our clinic today!


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