Almost everyday I will get a new, (and sometimes old), patient that asks, “How does acupuncture work?” Then I have to explain to the patient that to answer that question is not as easy as a + b = c.
Under our western understanding, the way acupuncture works borders with the esoteric to the religious, but the difference is, the results are tangible and measurable. Though, how those results are attained, isn’t. In other-words, western science has no idea how it works. I remember when I was at university approximately 20 years ago and my neuroscience professor tried to explain the theories that western medicine had for how acupuncture works and they were flawed at best. Now, all these years later there is still no explanation on exactly how it works. However, there is now at least science to show that it does.
The Chinese theory on how acupuncture works is based on the concept of “qi”.
For the sake of brevity, I am not going to go into a deep explanation of this concept, as it is a long winding road that seems to potentially have no end. But I will say the best way I can describe it is this; qi is matter on the verge of becoming energy and energy on the verge of becoming matter. Qi is said to be in everything and is what keeps us human beings upright and functioning. Sickness, in acupuncture/tcm theory is considered an imbalance and or a stagnation of qi.
One difficulty that most people have and even most acupuncture students is, why is it that our society is so far advanced with technology with smart phones, stem cell research and amazing advancements in prosthetics, however, we still cannot explain how acupuncture works? My only answer is, we just haven’t developed the right machine yet. Though, I have a strong feeling that it isn’t to far away.
The simplest way to explain how acupuncture works is this. It helps the body to heal itself, by increasing and or balancing the blood circulation. The body’s ability to heal itself is well documented. Especially, when it is given the right tools to accomplish this task.
You maybe thinking, this is a very vague answer and I would have to agree with you. Though, it is the simplest way to explain an non-scientifically unmeasurable concept. To really get into the deepest of understanding would be to either study Taoism and Buddhism. The other option is to read the first ever book I read on acupuncture theory. “The Web That Has No Weaver” By Ted Kaptchuk. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaptchuk