Is Acupuncture Hocus Pocus?

“I used to think that acupuncture was hocus pocus. But now I am happy I tried,” a once skeptical now relieved patient said to me.

People new to acupuncture are sometimes wary because they think it’s magical. But after experiencing an acupuncture treatment, they usually feel very different.

This is because acupuncture relaxes the body, decreases pain, and regulates the nervous system, so you physically feel different after an acupuncture treatment.

Research has shown that acupuncture works by regulating pain relieving chemicals in the brain , modifying pain patterns within the nervous system, as well as stimulating the release of anti-inflammtory chemicals in cells close to the needles. (1,2,3)

acupuncture lower back

A Language of its Own

While acupuncture has real physiological effects on the body, Chinese medicine possesses a unique language to describe the body and health. One of the most important ideas in acupuncture is qi. Qi, or the body’s energy, is similar to our everyday idea of energy, it helps us do things- exercise, work, stay healthy. When there is an imbalance in the qi, illness can occur.

How Acupuncture Corrects Imbalances

The first step in acupuncture treatment is the correct diagnosis. As an acupuncturist, we look at your tongue, take your pulse, ask many questions, and formulate a diagnosis of what imbalance is causes your illness.

Acupuncture treatment is focused on correcting that imbalance. A successful treatment is based upon choosing the correct acupuncture points which best address your imbalance. It also relies on how I adjust and stimulate the needles for your specific imbalance.

Moxibustion on Hand 1

For example, if there is too little energy, we may use moxabustion to warm and boost the energy. If there is a lack of movement, or stagnation in the channels, using electroacupuncture can be more effective. And finally, twirling the needle is effective both to stimulate movement of the energy, but also to release the anti inflammatory chemicals from the neighboring cells.


¹Napadow V, Kettner N, Liu J, et al. Hypothalamus and amygdala response to acupuncture stimuli in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Pain.2007;130(3):254-266; PMID: 17240066.

2. Yu JS, Zeng BY, Hsieh CL. Acupuncture stimulation and neuroendocrine regulation. Int Rev Neurobiol.2013;111:125-140; PMID: 24215920.

3. Goldman N, Chen M, Fujita T, et al. Adenosine A1 receptors mediate local anti-nociceptive effects of acupuncture. Nat Neurosci.2010;13(7):883-888; PMID: 20512135.–

Joseph Alban

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban is a Doctor of Acupuncture, New York Licensed Acupuncturist, and NCCAOM Board Certified Herbalist providing the highest quality Acupuncture and Chinese medicine care tailored to your needs.

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