Let's start with what we know biomedically about how acupuncture relieves pain:
- It releases endorphins which are our bodies' natural painkillers
- It decreases inflammation
- It increases blood flow to the injured area
And here's how Chinese medical theory looks at it (and remember, acupuncture was invented long before we had biomedical testing and imaging - the ancient Chinese used metaphors seen in nature to describe the workings of the human body):
Think of the body as a river system, with rivers and streams flowing all throughout your body. When healthy, our rivers should be unblocked and smooth-flowing. When we get injured (as in the picture above - ouch!), a dam is placed across the rivers, and they can no longer flow smoothly, or even in the same directions that they previously had. When the rivers aren't reaching the same areas they used to, the symptom that we experience is pain. So what acupuncture does is remove the dam so that the rivers can flow smoothly once again.
Now, let's compare the two ways of looking at acupuncture (biomedical and Chinese medical theories): Couldn't inflammation and decreased blood flow be analagous to a dam across a river? And by removing that dam, wouldn't we be restoring (blood) flow to the area?
I know that oftentimes acupuncture seems mysterious and almost magical in its theories, but if you can see through the metaphors, you'll find that the ancient Chinese were on to something. They had the story right, it's just that some of the details had different names!