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Scientists Seek Clues for Acupuncture's Success

Learn how acupuncture might help when Western medicine doesn't have an answer.
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What Acupuncture Can Do for You continued...

The treatment "has a calming, restorative effect that increases a sense of well-being and ultimately helps the body to accept the creation of life," said acupuncturist Ifeoma Okoronkwo, MD, a professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, in an earlier interview. Studies have shown a clear link between acupuncture and the body's natural "feel good" brain chemicals.

Acupuncture also appears to affect three areas critical to egg production and ovulation: two areas of the brain that control hormone production (the hypothalamus and pituitary glands) as well as the ovaries. "My guess is that acupuncture is changing the blood supply to the ovaries, possibly dilating the arteries and increasing blood flow, so that ultimately, the ovaries are receiving greater amounts of hormonal stimulation," Sandra Emmons, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health Sciences University, told WebMD in a previous interview.

Acupuncture may also "boost" the uterine lining when it is too weak to sustain a pregnancy, a problem known to increase the risk of miscarriage.

The Science Behind Acupuncture

According to Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture affects the life force called "chi." More than 2000 acupuncture points in the body are connected by meridians, or pathways, through which energy must pass freely for optimal wellness. Disturbances in this flow result in illness or dysfunction.

Over the years, research has shown that acupuncture affects a variety of biological systems -- releasing hormones, disabling receptors, and activating anti-inflammatory chemicals. It has been suggested that the

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healing power of acupuncture comes from its effect on the nervous system. It might aid the pain-killing effect of chemicals called endorphins or help cells from the immune system fight infection, according to the NIH.

Intricate networks of connective tissue -- which extend throughout the body -- may be at the crux of acupuncture, according to other studies. It's evident when an acupuncture needle is inserted into the body. Like a fork in a plate of spaghetti, the needle grabs up tiny bits of connective tissue and nerve bundles between muscles.

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