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    What is acupuncture

    What is acupuncture

    The mechanism of acupuncture? Scientists have no concrete answer, but there are numerous prevailing theories.

    1. By some unknown process, acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is called the “Augmentation of Immunity” Theory.
    2. The “Endorphin” Theory states that acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body (specifically Enkaphalins).
    3. The “Neurotransmitter” Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by acupuncture.
    4. “Circulatory” Theory: this states that acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body’s release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to treatment.
    5. One of the most popular theories is the “Gate Control” Theory. According to this theory, the perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse that will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the “Gate.” If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of pain are rather small nerve fibers called “C” fibers. These are the gates that close during acupuncture.

    There are many diseases that can be treated successfully by acupuncture or its related treatments. The most common ailments currently being treated are: lower backache, cervical spondylosis, condylitis, arthritic conditions, headaches of all kinds (including migraine), allergic reactions, general and specific use for analgesia (including surgery), and relief of muscles spasms. There have also been clinical trials in the use of acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders and depression. Likewise, very high success rates have been found in treating addictions to alcohol, tobacco (nicotine) and “hard’ drugs. It should be noted that acupuncture can rid the body of the physical dependency, but can not rid the mind of the habit (psychological dependency). Acupuncture used in conjunction with counseling and 12 step programs has proven to be remarkable effective.

    The efficacy of acupuncture treatment can be demonstrated by examining the results of case studies conducted by some reputable medical institutions. For example, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has sponsored three studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of substance abuse.

    The first study was conducted at the Lincoln Medical Medical Center in Bronx, NYC, New York. It was headed by Dr. Douglas Lipton, and completed in 1991. It concerned the use of auricular acupuncture on crack cocaine users. The study was split into groups, one getting the correct acupuncture treatments, the other getting “placebo” acupuncture (needles placed in the “wrong” spots). Urinalysis results showed that the subjects receiving the correct treatments had lowered their use of the drug, in as little as two weeks. This was verified by testing for cocaine metabolite levels. However, the reduction was not as significant as had been anticipated. It is important to note that no other type of treatment, such as counseling was given.

    In two other studies currently being done, (the first by Dr. Janet Konefal of Miami School of Medicine; and the other by Dr. Milton Bullock at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis) counseling combined with acupuncture is being tested. The preliminary results have been quite promising. Additional studies, too numerous to mention here have proven the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy in nicotine addiction, (see Bibliography for specific case citings).

    Between 1971 and and 1972 a series of doctors (Frank Z. Warren: New York University Medical Center; Pang L. Man and Calvin H. Chen: Northville State Hospital, Northville, Michigan), conducted seven surgeries at both Northville State Hospital and at Albert Einstein Medical Center. They used both standard Acupuncture and Electro-Acupunture techniques. They found that in all cases of surgery (six invasive and one dental) these Acupuncture treatments were successful in stopping the pain of surgery without additional anesthetics. In only one case (a repair of an inguinal hernia) did the patient complain of “discomfort;” and only in one additional case did a patient (the same one) complain of post-operative pain.

    In conclusion, it is evident that acupuncture is an effective treatment modality which should be taken seriously and considered a valid form of treatment alongside other “alternative” modalities, as well as mainstream medicine. More and more insurance companies are discovering the cost effectiveness of acupuncture as both a preventative strategy for maintaining health and well being and an effective treatment of many chronic ailments for which Western medicine has no answer.

    Acupuncture Doctors are licensed independently in most states while some states require practitioners to be a Medical Doctor. Unfortunately, the requirements for M.D.’s are often not as stringent as they are for many well trained acupuncturists and this can result in ineffective treatments. As a consumer it is important to ask any practicing acupuncturist where they studied and how they were licensed. Acupuncture schools are federally accredited by the ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). This accreditation demands rigorous standards be met and allows the schools to offer federal guaranteed student loans.


    Baxi, Dr. Nilesh and Dr.CH Asrani. Speaking of: Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture. New Dehli, India: Sterling Publishers Private Ltd, 1986.
    Duke, Marc. Acupuncture. New York: Pyramid House Books, 1972.
    Holden, Constance. “Acupuncture: Stuck on the Fringe.” Science, May 6, 1994, pg 770.
    Lever, Dr. Ruth. Acupuncture For Everyone. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd, 1987.
    Lipner, Maxine. “Different Strokes.” Women’s Sports and Fitness, May/June, 1993, pg 31, 32, 85.
    Moss, Dr. Louis. Acupuncture And You: A New Approach To Treatment Based On The Ancient Method of Healing. London, England: Elek Publishers, 1972.

    Nightingale, Michael. The Healing Power of Acupuncture. New York: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc, 1986.
    Ponce, Pedro E. “Eastern Medicine Collides with Western Regulations at Mass. Acupuncture School.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 27, 1993, pg A32.
    Saslow, Linda. “Scores of Students Take Up Acupuncture at Center in Syosset.” New York Times, November 6, 1994.
    Warren, Dr. Frank Z. Handbook of Medical Acupncture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1976.

    Case Studies

    Dr. Douglas Lipton:”Lincoln Clinic Study”; Dr. Janet Konefal:”Miami Study”; Dr. Milton Bullock: “Hennepin County Study.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Office of Human Services, AM, Volume 1, Number 3, January, 1994. Brewington, Vincent, et al. “Acupuncture as a Detoxification Treatment: An Analysis of Controlled Research.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 11, Number 4, 1994, pg 289-307. Professor Jayasuriya: Paper for the 5th World Congress of Acupuncture;1977: Tokyo, Japan.

    Source: Acupuncture.com