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Acupuncture Physiology 101.

by Adam Cantor, MS, LAc

Acupuncture stimulation elicits De Qi, a grouping of complex and unique sensations that are essential for clinical efficacy according to numerous schools of Chinese medicine.  While patients have described De Qi as a heavy, achey, or dull sensation, there is a lack of adequate scientific data to indicate what sensations really comprise this phenomena-- how intense these sensations are, how common they occur, their relationship to acupuncture points, the physiology of De Qi, and how this phenomena compares with other forms of somatosensory stimulus. 

While some still argue that acupuncture doesn't elicit statistically significant research results beyond that of the placebo, we now know that this simply isn't true (read: Neurochemistry- Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture).  One should consider that animals are not capable of demonstrating the placebo effect. Yet, interestingly enough, many vets use acupuncture as an effective means of pain management. It is also worth mentioning that the analgesic effects of acupuncture can be mitigated if a patient is on certain drugs (opioids and many SSRI's for example). Both of these facts support the verity that acupuncture achieves pain relief through physiological means.

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