It looks like voodoo, but it’s bona fide science. Learn how being needled can help keep your mind and body in balance.
When hair-thin stainless-steel needles are strategically placed into your skin at specific acupuncture points, they help balance out your qi, or energy center, leading to a calmer, healthier you. At least, that’s the traditional Eastern explanation. The modern scientific hypothesis? The pricks cause tiny sensations that activate your nervous system and brain, promoting a relaxation response. Whatever the exact mechanisms, regular acupuncture plays a role in easing…
Just a few precise insertions can stimulate your peripheral nervous system, triggering a chain reaction involving painkillers such as endorphins. A recent analysis of 18,000 patients found acupuncture quelled chronic headaches, neck aches, and backaches. Bonus: Needles placed around specific injury sites can act like natural cortisone shots.
That relaxation response means less stress for you—and a reduction in related symptoms like insomnia, headaches, and fatigue. (One theory: The needles block the release of stress-related hormones cortisol and neuropeptide Y.)
Smile! That uptick in endorphins and other “happy” neurotransmitters, including serotonin, leads to a palpable mood lift, especially if you’re a frequent patient.
The practice can quell inflammation in your nasal passages (don’t worry, no needle up the nose required). Experts suspect it might also stimulate your immune response, leaving you less sensitive to allergens or less dependent on medications.
One analysis found that acupuncture could be an effective quitting aid. The aforementioned endorphin release may block cravings or make withdrawal easier.
Say adios to bloating and breast tenderness: A review revealed that getting pricked cuts PMS pains by up to 78 percent, possibly because it helps dial down stress and regulate hormones.
Sources: Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., Georgetown University; David Mischoulon, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital; Jongbae Park, M.D., Ph.D., L.Ac., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Jamie Starkey, L.Ac., Cleveland Clinic; Jingduan Yang, M.D., Thomas Jefferson University Hospital