Understanding acupuncture from a modern physiological perspective
One of both the complicating and the fascinating tasks in understanding more about acupuncture is the theory of traditional acupuncture itself. Acupuncture and the body of thought that it arises out of, which is Chinese Medicine, is thousands of years old and from a culture very different from our own. The language of Chinese Medical textbooks is strange and exotic and full of ideas and concepts that don’t much fit with a modern understanding of the body. For some people this radically different conception of the body is part of its appeal. The value of acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be in its difference. For example it’s a given in Chinese Medicine that emotions and physical health are completely intertwined, the division actually doesn’t exist between the two. In conventional medicine it’s only relatively recently that this has come to be accepted. For all it’s incredible advances, to only recently arrive at this conclusion shows that there is much that is unknown about our health from a conventional perspective, and that much has been built on mistaken understanding. That some of those recent discoveries have been charted previously in other approaches to health and healing suggests they may well have been on to something. Of course they also got a lot wrong, because 2000 years ago there was also a lot we didn’t know about the body. As a result, to study Chinese Medicine means to be able to be in a sense, bilingual. We have to be able to look at very old ideas about health and healing and re-interpret them in a way that allows us to take what’s useful from the system and be able to also drop what’s not. One of the ways in which this has happened, with mixed consequences is the re-interpretation of acupuncture from a modern scientific perspective. It can be interesting to learn about acupuncture using all the old Chinese Medical ideas, but it’s also increasingly valuable to understand what happens during an acupuncture treatment from a modern physiological perspective.
In modern terms acupuncture can be understood as a form of sensory stimulation that produces change at different levels of the nervous system. One of the foremost experts on this physiological perspective is Dr and physiologist Thomas Lundeberg. Lundeberg has produced numerous papers on acupuncture, some on the complexities of carrying out acupuncture research and why that’s such a complicated issue, and many others on various physiological processes that are initiated as a result of acupuncture treatment.
Part of Lunderberg’s lecture on the physiology of acupuncture can be found here for anyone that’s interested more in understanding how acupuncture works from a neurophysiological perspective: