Can Acupuncture Help Reduce Inflammation?
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a defence mechanism in the body’s immune system. If the immune system detects pathogens, infections, or any foreign object in the body, it responds by releasing white blood cells and other inflammatory mediators. These mediators stimulate nerves and cause the blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood to reach the injured tissue to promote healing. This process may also create heat, swelling and redness around the area.
Although inflammation is a vital function of the immune system, chronic inflammation can have long-term effects on the body. It has been linked to conditions including asthma, cancer, heart disease and various autoimmune disorders. Factors that can cause inflammation in the body include an unhealthy lifestyle, chronic stress and environmental allergens.
Acute inflammation can usually be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and aspirin, but corticosteroids may be prescribed for chronic inflammation. These drugs may offer temporary relief from the symptoms, but they are also known to cause many long-term side effects.
How does acupuncture reduce inflammation?
Acupuncture is an effective and safe treatment for both acute and chronic inflammation.
It is a form of treatment in which extremely thin needles are inserted through the skin in certain points on the body. It works on the energy meridians of the body by unblocking the obstructed ‘Qi’ (pronounced chee), or life energy.
It stimulates the nerves to correct any imbalances in the system by targeting painful trigger points. The needles used in acupuncture therapy are disposable, which minimises the risk of infection during treatment.
Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation by stimulating the production of hormones like cortisol and dopamine and inhibiting the generation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. It also facilitates the release of specific neuropeptides, which can have profound physiological effects.
Various studies have documented how acupuncture effectively reduces bodily pain by promoting the release of natural painkillers called endorphins. Acupuncture is known to have positive effects on various diseases – such as arthritis, psoriasis and fibromyalgia – associated with chronic inflammation. The vasodilation effects of acupuncture work to reduce joint pain and stiffness.
Studies show significant decreases in back pain and knee pain when acupuncture is used on patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Treatments prevent the release of mast cells that trigger an inflammatory response in the body and is useful for conditions like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
People suffering from type-2 diabetes show higher levels of inflammation due to increased insulin resistance. Acupuncture can reduce inflammation caused by diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels.
Some studies suggest a link between chronic stress and inflammation. Chronic stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol, which can result in high blood pressure, digestive issues, insomnia and lowered immune function. Fortunately, acupuncture can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression by reducing the secretion of cortisol. This helps to relax the body. It also modulates the sympathetic nervous system and improves blood circulation, which helps counteract the physical effects of stress. Acupuncture also significantly helps to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety by affecting the production of serotonin. It alleviates inflammation caused due to stress and protects you from stress-related disorders like diabetes, hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
If you suffer from inflammation, you may want to consider acupuncture therapy as a form of treatment. The advantage is that the side-effects and complications of acupuncture are significantly lower than those of medication. Acupuncture addresses the underlying causes as well as the symptoms of inflammation, while reducing the risk of developing diseases associated with it.
You might also benefit by making a few changes to your lifestyle. Try stress management, reducing smoking and adding a moderate amount of exercise. Dietary changes – like increasing your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, foods high in fibre and adding spices like turmeric into your diet – may also help. Reducing your intake of processed foods, aerated drinks and processed sugar is also known to reduce inflammation.