I thought this month I would share a bit about electroacupuncture and revisit the basic question of how acupuncture works. I enjoy this topic especially as I’ve been delving deeper into neurology and realizing that the language of neurology is the most suited to explaining how acupuncture works. But first, here's a fun mention of AB Acupuncture and W72Wellness in the local media:
I'm proud that W72 Wellness and AB Acupuncture are once again featured in ilovetheupperwestside .com. Most of you have probably seen that we have some amazing practitioners in the space with more to come next year. Take a look at the article and like it on their page.
How Acupuncture Works Before discussing the benefits of adding electricity to acupuncture treatments, let’s talk about the basics of how acupuncture works. Acupuncture points are 3 dimensional areas on the body with particularly dense distribution of blood vessels, connective tissue (elastin & collagen fibers) and fascia. Within these areas are several kinds of nerve endings (different points have different ones of these) such as muscular and free nerve endings, pain-sensing nerves, autonomic/sympathetic nerves or nerve trunk areas. When needles are inserted, this can lead to changes in anatomic structures, modulation of cell functions, release of bioactive substances & chemical mediators such as neurotransmitters (serotonin, GABA, Nitric oxide), immune modulators (histamine) or endogenous opioids. Those chemical mediators in turn activate receptors. What are receptors? Well this is where a lot of the work gets done. Receptors are what convert energy into electrical impulses which create our sensory perceptions such as pain, temperature, pressure & light. Put simply, by stimulating these areas, we affect changes in function and perception of pain. We are connecting with the brain and central nervous system via access points around the body which are optimized to receive those signals. Changing the micro-environment around the local needle changes the information going to the spinal cord and central nervous system We particularly see this when there is a bit of red that comes up around the needle which is histamine, explaining one of the mechanisms by which acupuncture helps optimize our bodies immune responses.
Why electro acupuncture? For one thing, we already are electrical beings. The average human generates about 100 watts of electricity. Our hearts use it and our brain uses it to send signals all over our bodies. Electrical frequencies allow for access to mechanoreceptors and to various endogenous opioid receptors. In the mid to late 20th century, research was being conducted on uses of acupuncture for analgesia and in those studies concluded that the analgesic effects were in part due to the release of neuromodulatory substances (endogenous opioids) into cerebral spinal fluid. It was also discovered that by changing the frequencies of the electric stimulation, they could effect the release of different endogenous opioids in our bodies. Additionally, different currents could affect inflammation and the synthesis of cellular ATP (the source of energy which powers all our cells). Most of you are familiar with my hand held device where I contract your muscle to stimulate the motor point of that muscle and change its behavior to change the functioning of a joint or limb and reduce or eliminate pain. Our muscles and nerves are the same creatures of habit that we are and sometimes they need a bit of a jolt to change their behavior. These devices are powered by regular household batteries, not plugged into outlets, so power output is limited and completely safe.
I know this was a little technical, but I get asked about this a lot and thought an explanation in writing might help demystify what happens in the office.
*I would like to credit my many teachers but particularly Dr. Ayla Wolf, DAOM, L.Ac & Dr. John Gorsuch, DACM, AP and their work with the clinical neuroscience program at The Carrick Institute for helping me understand this amazing medicine so I can help my patients.