Acupuncture has been a mainstay of Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Now, as studies continue to prove its efficacy, it is rising in popularity within Western medical practices, and more specifically, the regenerative medical community. In the United States alone, more than 10 million treatments are given to patients on a yearly basis.
In this article, we’ll dive into the many applications of this treatment, fascinating research findings, and the relationship between acupuncture and regenerative medicine. You may be surprised to find that while acupuncture and regenerative medicine were conceived on separate continents many lifetimes apart, they are very closely related.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a practice that originated in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been around since at least 100 B.C. During treatment sessions, needles are inserted into specific acupressure points along a patient’s body.
According to TCM, qi (pronounced “chi”) is the energy of life, which flows along meridians throughout the body. In TCM, it is believed that illness and pain are the results of an imbalance in the flow of qi along these meridians. Acupuncture points (also called acupressure points) are the precise locations along these meridians where an acupuncturist inserts needles in order to promote healing, and restore homeostasis, or free flow of energy. Research has found that these meridians often over lie anatomical structures and connective tissue, such as nerves and fascia.
How Are Acupuncture and Regenerative Medicine Connected?
Regenerative medicine is a broad term used to describe medical treatments, practices, and therapies focused on regenerating lost or damaged cells or tissues within the body in order to restore overall health and well being. Often, the focus of these practices is aimed at stimulating the body’s own healing capabilities and applying them to a specific ailment.
Acupuncture has been incorporated into many regenerative medical practices because of its multitude of healing capabilities. Studies have found that it can regenerate and repair injured nerve cells, as well as help the body repair atrophied muscle tissue after an injury. Early research has found that acupuncture has a positive impact on repairing damaged peripheral nerves in rats. In addition, acupuncture has been found to increase serotonin, encephalin, endomorphin-1, and beta endorphin levels in plasma and brain tissue when applied to the correct acupressure points.
Even though acupuncture has been around for millennia, practitioners of Western medicine are still conducting research in an effort to fully explain how this time-honored Eastern medical practice is so effective. A common hypothesis is that this therapy stimulates neurohormonal pathways, which cause the brain to release beta-Endorphins that act as a pain reliever.
Studies have even demonstrated that electroacupuncture can stimulate the release of stem cells (raw cells that can differentiate and become surrounding cells, thus regenerating damaged tissues). Stem cell treatments are a large focus of regenerative medicine. While the exact mechanisms of how and why acupuncture works are still being studied, there is one thing practitioners of Eastern and Western medicine agree on – acupuncture has been shown to promote healing and reduce pain.
What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture?
There are numerous documented benefits of acupuncture. It is considered a complementary therapy, meaning it works well in combination with other treatments such as medications or physical therapy. Acupuncture can help alleviate symptoms of a wide range of conditions.
A review of 31 studies found a direct correlation between acupuncture treatment and reduced body weight. Another study found that acupuncture can help people who are addicted to tobacco and want to quit smoking, by reducing their taste for tobacco and desire to smoke.
Several years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) compiled a report titled, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trial that outlined an extensive list of ailments that acupuncture has been found to treat effectively. The list included cardiovascular, muskulo-skeletal, gastrointestinal, psychological, respiratory system, gynecological, and ear-nose-and-throat disorders. These are just some of the conditions acupuncture treatments were found to impact positively:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Colitis (acute and chronic)
- Dental pain
- Bronchial asthma
- Meniere’s Disease
- Tennis Elbow
- Tension headaches
- Paresis following a stroke
- Gastritis (acute and chronic)
- Menopause syndrome
- Esophageal spasms
- Acute sinusitis
- Acute tonsillitis
- Lower back pain
How Is Acupuncture Used as a Regenerative Medical Beauty Treatment?
Cosmetic acupuncture has gained popularity because of its anti-aging effects. Facial acupuncture, in particular, boasts a range of benefits including:
- Acne reduction
- Reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
- Pore minimization
- Improvement in skin texture
- Jaw tension reduction
- Complexion brightening
- Facial muscle tone improvement
- Minimization of puffiness, swelling, and sagging
During facial acupuncture, needles are lightly inserted into specific acupressure points found along the face, hairline, jaw, and sometimes the neck. When the needles are inserted, they cause micro-tears in the facial muscles, which the body works to repair. This process is similar to the way the body heals micro-traumas in muscle tissue after an intense workout. This healing response stimulates stem cells, blood, and collagen to flow to the facial muscles, regenerating the appearance and health of facial tissue. The result is rejuvenated skin thanks to the body’s own healing powers.
Are There Any Side Effects Associated with Acupuncture?
One of the reasons acupuncture is such a popular treatment is that when it is performed by a trained medical professional with sterile needles, there is a low risk of side-effects. The most common side effect is mild bruising or soreness where needles were placed during treatment.
Tell your acupuncturist before receiving treatment if you have a bleeding disorder, pacemaker, or may be pregnant. Certain acupuncture treatments are not recommended during pregnancy and may induce labor. Always give your doctors and medical professionals a full medical history before beginning a new treatment.
Interested in learning more about acupuncture and regenerative medicine? Aspire Regenerative is proud to offer a range of acupuncture treatments, including facial acupuncture, to patients suffering from a range of ailments. When you book a consultation at our state-of-the-art facility in San Diego, our clinicians will develop a personalized care plan, and make treatment recommendations to help you reach your health and wellness goals.