Acupuncture is seen as a stimulus directed to certain responsive parts of the nervous system, producing the needling sensation and setting off a biochemical cascade which enhances healing. Some acupuncture points are very frequently used and their applications are quite varied: needling at these points may stimulate a “global” healing response that can affect many diseases. Other points have only limited applications; needling at those points may affect only one of the signaling systems. It is common for acupuncturists to combine the broad-spectrum points and the specific points for each treatment. Some acupuncturists come to rely on a few of these broad-spectrum points as treatments for virtually all common ailments.
This modern explanation of how acupuncture saratoga springs works does not explain why the acupuncture points are arrayed along the traditional meridian lines. At this time, no one has identified-from the modern viewpoint-a clear series of neural connections that would correspond to the meridians. However, acupuncturists have identified other sets of points, such as those in the outer ear, which seem to be mapped to the whole body. The description, in the case of the ear, is of a layout of the body in the form of a “homunculus”, a miniature humanoid form. Such patterns might be understood more easily than the meridian lines, because the brain, which is adjacent to the ear, also has a homunculus pattern of neurological stimulus that has been identified by modern research. Similarly, acupuncturists have identified zones of that correspond to large areas of the body, and this may also be more easily explained because there are connections from the spinal column to various parts of the body which might have secondary branches elsewhere. In fact, acupuncture by zones, homunculi, “ashi” points, and “trigger” points is becoming a dominant theme, as the emphasis on treating meridians fades. The new focus is on finding effective points for various disorders and for getting biochemical responses.
During this modern period an increasing number of ways to stimulate the healing response at various body points have been advocated, confirming that needling is not a unique method. In the past, the main procedures for affecting acupuncture points were needling and application of heat. Now, there is increasing reliance on electrical stimulation, and laser stimulation. Since the basic idea of acupuncture therapy is gaining popularity throughout the world while the practice of needling is restricted to certain health professions and is not always convenient, other methods are also becoming widely used. Lay persons and practitioners with limited training are applying finger pressure, tiny metal balls held to the skin by tape, magnets, piezoelectric stimulus, and low energy electrical pulsing. Some of these methods may have limited effectiveness, but it appears that if an appropriate body site is stimulated properly, then the healing response is generated.
For many nervous system functions, timing is very important, and this is the case for acupuncture. The duration of therapy usually needs to be kept within certain limits, and the stimulation of the point is often carried out with a repetitive activity. It has been shown in laboratory experiments that certain frequencies of stimulus work better than others: this might be expected for nervous system responses, but is not expected for simple chemical release from other cells.