Acupuncture needles are inserted into empirically specific points, called acupuncture points, acupoints, or tsubos, located along the organ meridians, to stimulate the smooth flow of Qi. According to TCM, this promotes the proper functioning of the muscles, nerves, vessels, glands and organs, affecting the body's immune system, heart rate, brain activity and blood pressure. Modern Acupuncture uses extremely thin, sterile, laser made, disposable needles to regulate the vital force, or Qi, that courses through the meridians of all living organisms. TCM postulates that pain and illness is caused by an obstruction of the flow of Qi in one part of the body and an accompanying depletion of Qi in another part of the body. The needles are used to set up an energetic pattern to remove the obstruction, fill the depletion, and encourage the smooth flow of the vital force throughout the body, returning the individual to their optimal level of well being.
Many western doctors and researchers believe that these points can stimulate the nervous system to release endorphins and other naturally occurring chemicals and hormones that affect pain perception, mood, and overall health.
Acupuncture appears to affect the central nervous system, including the spinal cord, mid-brain and hypothalamus-pituitary complex.1 It seems to release endorphins (enkephalin or dynorphin, but not B-endorphin) into the spinal column, inhibiting transmission of a painful message from one cell to the next. In the mid-brain, acupuncture appears to stimulate the release of enkephalin (an endorphin), which eventually leads to the release of seratonin or norepinephrine into the spinal cord, either of which can suppress pain transmission. The action in the pituitary-hypothalamic complex due to acupuncture is known, but much less understood: it appears that beta-endorphins and ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) are co-released; the ACTH hormone travels to the adrenal cortex, releasing cortisol into the blood, which may explain why acupuncture is helpful in blocking the inflammation of arthritis and broncospasms of asthma.