Woodruff chiropractic medicine
minimize pain, maximize health

Scott C. Woodruff D.C., DACNB
Chiropractic Physician
Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist



Acupuncture is a therapy that is often very effective, especially for painful conditions.
Historically, acupuncture was discovered and developed in China over the last 2000 years.

Modern neural science is shedding new light on how and why acupuncture works. This new understanding regarding the scientific basis of acupuncture suggests methods of applying acupuncture that enhance therapeutic effectiveness.

Acupuncture therapy is generally not painful, in fact, it is often accompanied by relief of symptoms and an overall feeling of well being.

There are several different known mechanisms explaining the effects of acupuncture.

Local Effects

Acupuncture stimulates local sensory nerve endings in the skin and muscle. These sensory nerve endings send nerve impulses into the spinal cord and brain. In addition, these nerve endings release various chemical substances into tissues that are proximate to the needle stimulation. These substances cause local blood vessels to dilate and blood flow to increase. This release of chemical substances from sensory nerve endings and the resultant increase in local blood flow, helps to promote local tissue healing.

Segmental Effects

Nerve impulses generated by sensory nerve endings travel into the spinal cord. In the spinal cord, these impulses cause the release of enkephalin, a chemical substance that inhibits the activity of nerve cells that transmit painful sensations to the brain. By this mechanism, acupuncture not only inhibits pain from the area being treated, but also any body part that sends its nerves to that particular segment of the spinal cord. For example, a painful knee joint uses nerves that enter at the same spinal segment as do the nerves from the muscles that surround it. By treating these muscles, pain signals from the joint can be inhibited. Adjacent spinal segments are also inhibited, although to a lesser degree. Acupuncture reduces the relay of pain signals in spinal cord segments.

Extrasegmental Effects


Nerve signals produced by acupuncture treatment travel from the spinal cord to the brainstem. In the brainstem, these nerve impulses cause the release of opioid peptides. These opioid peptides cause pain to be inhibited throughout the entire body by way of descending inhibitory pain control. Acupuncture applied to one area of the body has a probability of reducing pain throughout the body.

Central Regulatory Effects

Nerve activity generated by acupuncture treatment then proceeds into various brain structures.
The hypothalamus, limbic system, and cerebral cortex are activated. This causes various effects; a feeling of relaxation, calming, and well being. This may also influence the autonomic nervous system and neuroendocrine system, thereby regulating the release of various hormones. Acupuncture treatment is often associated with a sense of well being.

Myofascial Trigger Points

Myofascial trigger points are small areas of persistent muscle tissue inflammation. These loci of inflammation are located within taut bands of muscle fibers and can present with varying degrees of pain sensitivity. Pressure placed upon a trigger point tends to replicate pain that the patient recognizes. This pain can be located in the same area as the trigger point (local pain), or can be the cause of pain that is some distance away (referred pain). Acupuncture therapy is very effective for inactivating myofascial trigger points, thereby reducing or eliminating pain.