In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qi is the energy that moves blood through pathways known as meridians. Think of qi like the flow of water through a stream. Water flow in a stream might be blocked by a fallen tree or a mud slide; in humans, qi might be blocked by an injury, stress or poor diet. When a stream is blocked, it floods above the blockage, and below the blockage it dries up. If you remove the source of the blockage, the stream will resume its natural course. The same thing happens to the body when energy is blocked.
Through acupuncture, blockage is removed and the flow of qi within a meridian – the natural energy flow – is restored. A blocked stream can be cleared by cutting a small hole in the blockage and allowing water pressure to slowly move the blockage and restore the stream to its natural function. Acupuncture has a similar effect. Just as a stream has areas that are easier to access than others, the meridians have certain points which will have a significant impact on the flow pattern. Many acupuncture points are named for geological structures: mountains, streams, ponds, and oceans.
From a Western perspective, Acupuncture signals the brain to release natural pain killing chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin. Some of these substances are 10-200 times more potent than morphine. The Western medical explanation is that acupuncture works by reducing inflammation and decreasing cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. At the same time, the needles trigger a healing response and your body produces more seratonin, oxytocin, melatonin and dopamine, chemicals which help with reducing stress and pain and increasing mood and sense of well being. Acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, which reguates the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the “rest and digest” or “calm and connect” system because it conserves energy and slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.