Inflammation is a normal response to various forms of stress, but when it becomes a chronic state it can cause all kinds of serious and/or painful conditions. Unfortunately, anti-inflammatory drugs can create problems of their own. That's why it makes sense to turn to acupuncture as a drug-free way of relieving your chronic inflammation issues.
To understand how the insertion of fine needles into the skin relieves inflammation, it is helpful to understand how inflammation occurs in the first place. Inflammation can actually be a good thing under the right circumstances. When the immune system perceives an injury or infection that requires healing, it releases inflammatory substances such as cytokines, proteins essential for tissue repair. But if you have a chronic physical problem -- or even ongoing emotional stress -- the inflammation may go on and on. Research has even tied chronic inflammation to clinical depression.
Scientists have noted a couple of different ways that acupuncture works to interrupt this process. First, the insertion of the needles causes a tiny amount of tissue damage -- not enough for you to notice, but just enough to trigger production of a substance called adenosine. Adenosine is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory. Acupuncture also appears to help regulate two important enzymes that contribute to pain and inflammation, COX-2 and NK-1. The technique actually blocks the proteins that trigger production of these enzymes, calming your pain pathways and relieving your inflammation. Researchers discovered this effect by administering electroacupuncture to ST36, an acupuncture point just below the knee (known to Traditional Chinese Medicine as the He Sea point), and two points near the ankle, BL60 (the Kunlun points and UB60 (a Jing River point). Now that acupuncturists can point to these specific mechanisms of relief, people suffering from chronic inflammation have better reason than ever to give acupuncture a try.
Best of all, acupuncture poses none of the potential side effects of common over-the-counter drugs. NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen can produce a variety of health complications ranging from interference with blood clotting to liver or stomach damage. Making use of your body's own anti-inflammatory processes is a healthier, more natural way to manage your inflammatory condition. Acupuncture also works well with dietary adjustments and herbal anti-inflammatory treatments.
Carina Storrs, "Depression's Dance with Inflammation." Discover Magazine.
"Acupuncture Anti-inflammatory Effect Revealed." Healthcare Medicine Institute.
"Acupuncture Gets Respect." Arthritis Foundation.