The first thing people should understand about acupuncture is that it is only a tool. The person wielding the tool is responsible for what it can do. They might have any number of models and  strategies in mind. They may be more or less aware of their technique and the range of possibilities at any given point where a needle is inserted, or of how their own mechanics and attention affect the outcome. 

Acupuncture’s special ability is to stimulate the body to do what it naturally does. It probably cannot do anything else. If it relieves pain, it is in exactly the ways that your body naturally relieves pain, but not just by regulating neurotransmitters. If the fascia is needled, the fascia responds; likewise for muscles and tendons, which can be felt to move during treatment. The response of the vascular system is immediate, precise, and clearly palpable

Every cubic centimeter of the body is densely perfused with interconnected networks of tissue. These are the fabled acupuncture channels. Tracts of fascia, latitudinal and longitudinal blood vessels, nerve pathways and dermatomes. The ancient founders of acupuncture medicine studied these structures closely and methodically.

These lines are not literal representations of anything.

What makes those researchers of the classical period radical today is not any romantic idea of the body; it is just that they thought it – the actual flesh and blood human body – was intelligent, capable of healing, and inseparable from its environment. That is the practical perspective which gave rise to an amazing form of medicine. It would be tragic to take acupuncture, a tool, and leave the perspective that has given it power and purpose for so long.

Modern acupuncture research does definitively prove its clinical power, especially for pain. Skeptics, in this case, are out to lunch. For clinical trials and research on physiological mechanisms, visit this site. For tangible results, however, find a practitioner rooted in the classical insights from which acupuncture developed.