There are several important effects elicited with contemporary medical neurofunctional acupuncture including:
Motor neuron modulation:
Motor nerves carry signals from the brain to the muscles, telling them to activate. There is an optimal level of tone, or neural input, for each motor neuron. Too much neural input results in a muscle that feels tight, knotted, and can’t relax – the brain is sending signals to that muscle constantly telling it to contract. This type of sensation is commonly felt by many people in the muscles between the neck and shoulders, especially after sitting at a computer for a long time. Conversely, not enough neural input results in a muscle that is ‘lazy’, and can’t activate and do its job properly. This commonly occurs after an acute injury.
Part of our body’s natural defense mechanism after an injury is to inhibit the signals the brain is sending to the muscles surrounding the injury – it wants us to rest the area and allow it to heal. Unfortunately, this response isn’t always absolutely beneficial – it can persist beyond an appropriate amount of time, or affect muscle groups that are critical to stabilizing a joint. By stimulating these motor nerves with a needle, we can “reboot” the amount of neural input being sent into the muscle so that the signals are being sent at an appropriate rate. The end result is a restoration of efficient movement patterns.
Sensory neuron modulation:
Sensory nerves carry pain signals from the affected area to the brain. Stimulating these nerves with an acupuncture needle can affect how pain signals are being sent to the brain, and also which areas in the brain are involved with processing and interpreting these signals.
Increased perfusion (blood flow):
Inserting a needle into the body causes a transient vasodilation (opening up of the blood vessels, allowing more blood flow into the targeted area). This allows various chemicals that mediate the healing response to access the injured area. This effect is especially important in chronic injuries, where the small blood vessels at the end of the line can actually start to die off in response to the longstanding irritation. Studies show that with repeated treatments over the course of a few weeks, we can actually help stimulate the regrowth of these blood vessels, resulting in a permanent restoration of the proper amount of perfusion to a particular area.
After an acute injury occurs, the body releases a cascade of inflammatory mediators to help manage the tissue damage. While this response is a healthy and necessary component of healing, it can unfortunately leave behind some undesirable by-products. This ‘inflammatory debris’ can result in changes to the properties of surround soft tissues and joint capsules. These changes include increased collagen infiltration and fibrotic adhesions, which can result in restrictions of the soft tissues and joint capsules. Inserting a needle into these areas can stimulate the release of certain chemical mediators that will facilitate the re-absorption of this debris.
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