Does Acupuncture Use Nerves?

An image of nerves of the nervous system, a posterior view.Does acupuncture use nerves? Believe it or not, it’s a very common question I get goes something like this, “Does acupuncture have something to do with nerves?” The short answer to this question is, “No. Not in the way you are probably thinking.” Let’s see why.

There is a prevailing view, outside of the acupuncture community at least, that acupuncture clearly has something to do with nerves. The thought behind this is that nerves exist all over the body, and are able to transmit very powerful signals to the brain very quickly (via afferent nerves). So since “medical science” has no other explanation for how acupuncture works (and sometimes works very quickly), nerves must be involved.

For certain acupuncture points, this makes reasonable sense. A point like Nei Guan (labeled “PC 6” in this chart) lies above the median nerve and unsurprisingly often elicits a very “nervy” sensation when needled. Other important acupuncture points do not have a close association to major nerves, so this hypothesis breaks down.

The effects of acupuncture cannot be explained with our current understanding of “western medicine”. Acupuncture uses points that lie on acupuncture channels (often inaccurately called acupuncture meridians) which may or may not correspond to nerves.

Truly integrative medicine, combining the discoveries of the eastern and western systems into a unified medicine is ultimately where I hope and believe we are headed. This unification will be a long road, however and it is important not to jump to hasty conclusions. We must proceed scientifically, just as each of these systems were derived scientifically. Nerves simply fail to fully explain the many effects of acupuncture.

If you’re interested in learning more about acupuncture, simply schedule an appointment at our location in Durham, NC. To schedule an appointment call 919-228-8448, or use our online scheduling system.

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