Picture of a person receiving acupuncture

What Happens to Your Brain During Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the ancient (3,000 years ancient) Chinese practice of using needles the size of a cat whisker to alleviate a vast array of issues. Acupuncture helps release the natural flow of your body’s energy, which when blocked, can cause pain, disruptions in your sleep, illness, and digestive issues.

Trained acupuncturists can help your body release this energy to eliminate pain in nearly every system of your body; nervous system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, digestive system, and your immune system.

For those who have done acupuncture, you know this to be true. For others, it still might sound a bit too “alternative.” But there is one more thing that acupuncture helps stimulate and that’s the brain. There have been a lot of studies done regarding a brain on acupuncture and the science shows how this ancient Chinese practice is actually working.

What Happens in Your Brain During Acupuncture

Studies have successfully shown acupuncture can affect three key brain functions:

  1. Your internally created endogenous opioids system- which plays a vital role in motivation, emotion, attachment behavior, and your response to stress and pain.
  2. Your dopamine levels- which impacts your mood, body function and how you respond to illness.
  3. Your serotonergic neurons- which, in regular terms, means neurons in your gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, and blood platelets.

Everything from your mood to your central nervous system can be and has been proven, to be effective and changed with proper acupuncture treatments.

Brain Scans to Track Acupuncture Results

Many studies have been done to show what happens in the brain during acupuncture treatment, and there is a lot of activity. Helping with everything from stress, insomnia, and chronic pain.

“There is robust evidence that acupuncture provides modest benefits over usual care for patients with diverse sources of chronic pain.” – Dr. Andrew L. Avins, MD, MPH, research scientist at the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California

When put under an MRI, people undergoing real acupuncture treatment saw a decrease in pain signals. The brain showed pain levels decrease and led researchers to conclude “there really is something going on here…it was likely the increased tolerance to pain was real and not just an artifact of treatment, known as a placebo effect.”

A study looking at the effects of acupuncture on chronic migraines used PET-CT neuroimaging to show relief in those who underwent acupuncture. Those who had proper acupuncture treatment experienced more relief from their migraines and the PET-CT scan showed an increase of brain activity in the areas responsible for pain management.
More Than Just a Myth

With the help of scientific studies, acupuncture is working to expel the myth that is it just a “placebo” procedure or “wacky eastern medicine.” It is, in fact, a very viable and proven natural method to help with a whole host of medical issues.

If you are interested in learning more about acupuncture, trying it out for the first time or looking to reactive care— contact us today.

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