The traditional theory
According to Chinese medicine, good health is dependent on the healthy functioning of the body’s organs and the unobstructed movement through the body of qi (energy or life force).
Qi flows through the body along a series of pathways which are often referred to as acupuncture meridians or channels.
In the same way that water in a river can become blocked or the river can dry up, the qi in the meridians of the body can become obstructed or depleted by various factors, including overwork, our emotions, poor nutrition and physical trauma.
The aim of Chinese medicine is to allow the qi to flow smoothly through the body so that health is restored.
Chinese medicine is increasingly being accepted by conventional medicine and there is a growing body of research on its effectiveness, particularly for pain relief.
One theory is that acupuncture needles stimulate pain-sensing nerves, which trigger the brain to release endorphins thereby relieving pain and inducing a feeling of relaxation.
Other research suggests that acupuncture needles cause minor tissue damage, leading to the release of adenosine which acts as a local pain reliever.
Another theory is that acupuncture works through the placebo effect, in which the patient’s thinking and beliefs about treatment lead to the release of endorphins.