Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Acupuncture may positively affect the autonomic nervous system

Readers may have heard of some studies proving the positive response of many patients to acupuncture. However, the way that acupuncture achieves those results may be mystery.

A recent article suggests that acupuncture affects the patient by bridging the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses of the autonomic nervous system. Those two responses are equal and opposing forces in a balanced system. The sympathetic, or fight-or-flight response, is triggered in response to acute danger or stress. The parasympathetic, or relaxation response, works to clear the body of the stress hormones, such as cortisol, produced during the sympathetic response. In Chinese medicine, these opposing forces might be viewed as Yin and Yang.

Researchers have found that individuals suffering from certain chronic disabilities, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue system, as well as certain disorders of the autonomic nervous system, such as epilepsy or anxiety, often have a sluggish, baseline sympathetic response. One theory is that the stress hormones in such individuals have been overworked to the point of dysfunction.

Although Western medicine may not understand every aspect of nerve functioning, studies show that acupuncture appears to stimulate the parasympathetic, or relaxation response. Patients demonstrate this response by shifts in their blood pressure, heart rate, pupil size, and muscle activities. It's possible that acupuncture, by tapping into the body's nervous system and energy flow, communicates to the hypothalamus.

That's good news for workers who have been forced from their jobs due to chronic or autonomic nervous system disorders. Although such workers may be surviving on Social Security disability insurance benefits, that subsistence is no substitute for good health.

Source:, "Acupuncture Regulates the Nervous System - New Research," June 1, 2013

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