From a Western medical perspective, the acupuncture points have been shown to be associated with certain anatomic structures of the nervous system. Needling the points causes a local inflammatory effect, which in turn causes an increased local tissue immune response, improved local blood flow, and muscle relaxation.
In addition to their use for treatment, acupuncture points can aid in diagnosis. When palpated, increased sensitivity in an acupuncture point may indicate a problem with structures local to the point or with acupuncture meridians associated with the point. There are several different methods of stimulating acupuncture points. The simplest method is called "dry needling", in which long, slender, flexible needles are placed through the skin into the points and left in place for 10-20 minutes. If a longer-lasting effect is desired, injection of substances into the point, such as vitamin B-12, antibiotics, or homeopathic medications, can be performed. This is called aquapuncture and is generally performed with fine-gauge hypodermic needles.
Electroacupuncture involves attaching electrodes to the acupuncture needles and applying an electrical current through them. This method is good for chronic pain and neurologic conditions. Frequency, intensity and type of pulse can be adjusted for the best response.