Wondering How Does Acupuncture Work?

Stomach Channel Points
Copyright Acupuncture Points

How does acupuncture work? Well, first, you might like to know that your acupuncturist is an expert in not just acupuncture, but many other therapies besides Acupuncture, which is only one of the treatment methods in Chinese Medicine.

Wait a Moment! (we hear you ask)…

Lighting Moxa Cone to assist immune system vs ill effects of antibiotics
Lighting Moxa Cone

Yes, Chinese medicine has evolved many other therapies to treat disease and to maintain health. Some you might have heard of, like moxibustion ,

Cupping uses TCM theory and demonstrates how acupuncture works
Squeeze Rubber Cups

Another is cupping. This ancient therapy, known about for millennia, and not just in China, is something that you can do at home. I’ve shown countless people how to do it, and safely. Click cupping for how to do this, and what it’s used for.

Most acupuncturists are trained to use these therapies, so knowing how acupuncture works means knowing about them too.

Still others come from traditions that grew out of the Chinese Medical theory but then developed along their own paths, such as in Japan, with Shiatsu.

Acupuncturists often do this too or use acupressure on acupuncture points. 

Advice on Nutrition

Healthy Food for gut health
Healthy Food Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Nutrition is another way to treat disease used by acupuncturists. The Chinese attitude to Nutrition is quite distinct, with insights that complement our Western Scientific tradition.

If you are new to acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the ancient rules about how to to stay well with food may seem very strange. But people find they work.


Herbs can help immunity and reduce ill effects from antibiotics
Herbs to strengthen immunity vs ill-effects of antibiotics

Chinese herbal medicine is an extension of nutrition, and probably grew out of kitchen medicine, an awareness of how herbs used in cooking changed people’s metabolism.

You could say that medications you get from your doctor, many based on active ingredients from herbs, are like concentrated herbs. Herbs, on the other hand, are like concentrated foods in their effect. But herbs aren’t nutritious, any more than are medications from your doctor. It is food that is nutritious!

When you visit an acupuncturist he or she may ask about your diet and make suggestions that help you stay well. 

So these different and ancient ways of treating people in traditional Chinese medicine include


All share the same underlying philosophy of health and disease.

Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM

What we call ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ is an elegant, coherent and complete system of medicine. It can explain and treat diseases of great complexity. 

For many, TCM and its philosophy is as much a way of life, with links to daoism and shamanism.

But it also gave inspiration to some of the brightest people who have ever lived over the last 4000 years, all of whom questioned it, thought about it and observed its action in countless individuals. The books they wrote come from at least 2500 years ago.


Needling Upper Back points shows how acupuncture works
Needles in the acupuncture channel system

As far as acupuncture goes, they realised something that modern science has hardly yet grasped. That there are ‘passages’ in the body without substance but which have a major influence on it.

How acupuncture works became an important part of what they discovered.


So, How Does Acupuncture Work?


How acupuncture works can also be seen when treating babies
Acupressure on a baby’s ankle

Acupuncture Channels (also called acupuncture meridians) carry Qi.

Qi keeps you alive. (Remember, this is Traditional Chinese Medicine and its theory we’re talking about.)

Qi ‘leads’ the Blood.

Every disease you care to name can be diagnosed in terms of Qi and Blood. (It can also be diagnosed in terms of Yin and Yang.)

So if you ask how does acupuncture work, it’s like this. Sterile acupuncture needles are very carefully inserted into acupuncture ‘points’ along these channels.  The points are chosen according to the wisdom and teaching of at least 2500 years of experience by some of the most skilful doctors the world has ever known.

Then the needles are gently manipulated in various ways.

Why? To influence the movement of Qi.

What happens then? The Qi in the channels flows more smoothly and dissipates excess (for example of Heat or Damp) and tonifies deficiency (of Qi and Blood, for example.)

This improves how your inner organs work (like your heartkidneysliverstomach etc).

As it clears away these excesses or deficiencies, it balances out tensions, whether mental or physical, and removes the underlying forces that created the disease.

So, if your disease, let’s say eczema, was diagnosed in Chinese medicine as being due to ‘Dryness‘, ‘Heat‘, and ‘Blood Stasis‘ (eczema is often but not always a combination of these factors), acupuncture would use points to ‘Clear the Heat’, and ‘Nourish and move the Blood’.

Your renewed Blood can now moisturise where there is dryness, so helping remove the underlying causes of your eczema.

OK. How Acupuncture Works is fine, but what about Acupuncture Side-Effects?


Finding the acupoint

Does acupuncture have a side effect? Of course! Read about at least one possible acupuncture side effect here!

Acupuncture Benefits?

To read about them, click benefits of acupuncture.

Acupuncture Effectiveness

If you wonder not merely how does acupuncture work, but want proof that acupuncture is effective, there is a vast and growing body of data on this subject. 

There are thousands of research papers on this. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a list of diseases which it says acupuncture can help.

One of our members has done a considerable amount of highly-rated research on when, in what circumstances and how does acupuncture work: http://www.hughmacpherson.com

To read about what the WHO says, click Acupuncture Effectiveness. The British Acupuncture Council publishes a list of Research Fact Sheets on diseases that acupuncture treats.

(And, just in case you think Western medicine is perfect, click www.wddty.com/news/2015/08/just-8-per-cent-of-medicine-is-proven-to-work.html!)


Acupuncture Recommendation

However, in my experience, most people come because they’ve been recommended by someone who has benefited from treatment. You can read what people have said here.

More to read:

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