How Does Acupuncture Work?

Using a modern approach, we can identify that acupuncture has various effects. How acupuncture works can be illustrated more when considering a health complaint. We can, however, provide the general advice that when acupuncture needles enter the skin:

  • The neurological system is stimulated which affects local tissues, internal organs via reflex neurological pathways and the brain
  • Hormones are regulated both on a local, mind and systemic level
  • Other chemicals are stimulated locally as a result of stimulation

These effects have been shown to encourage the improvement of many different health complaints.

When Should Acupuncture Treatment Begin?

Most often, patients seek treatment when there is a significant problem. Like most things in life, it is always wise to attend to issues before they become substantial.

A benefit of seeing a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner is that they assess situations in terms of syndromes-meaning health is a state of balance as opposed to having a problem or not. This approach allows for both innovative treatment and prevention of health problems.

What Happens During An Acupuncture Treatment?

Once you’ve walked into the consultation room and been made comfortable, the practitioner will inquire about medical history and start by asking questions relating to overall health.
Some of these questions may seem daunting such as “do you get headaches regularly?” or “do you grind your teeth?”. The practitioner is gathering broad information at this stage to understand the overall state of health.

These questions are essential to develop appropriate treatment protocols and maximise outcomes from treatment.
If the questioning process reveals inadequate information, the practitioner might feel your pulse and observe the tongue. For a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner, the tongue and pulse provide valuable information as to what is happening inside the body.

The practitioner may feel the need to ask a few more questions to finalise the diagnosis; when this is complete, the treatment begins!

Associated Techniques


A modern addition to acupuncture therapy. A small electrical current is passed through the acupuncture needles to increase the stimulation to the target tissue significantly.

In the case of muscular tightness, an electric current is passed through the selected muscle groups to make them contract and relax. In this way, the electro-acupuncture is used to stimulate the pumping out of waste materials such as lactic acid from the muscle fibres. Stimulation like this may lead to a much-enhanced healing process.


Application of glass cups to various areas of the body to draw excessive tension/blood/fluid from a local area. Cupping is a potent technique for improving circulation, and although it may often leave a superficial bruise, cupping is almost entirely pain-free and relaxing.


The burning of a herb called ‘Ai Ye’ or Mugwort leaf commonly found in a prepared form for use either in a cigar-like stick form or in conjunction with acupuncture. Moxibustion is a very warming therapy and is quite useful for pain relief and stimulating blood circulation.