It turns out that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into the connective tissue under the skin and twisted, the needle becomes wound with connective fibers in much the same way as noodles enwrap a fork as it twirls. This pulls on fibroblasts and causes local changes that may be transmitted throughout a large area of connective tissue and possibly produce therapeutic effects.
ATP released from stretched fibroblasts may also contribute to a pain-relieving effect.
An interesting new direction for further study. And a good little story to weave into a discussion of fibrous connective tissues in our A&P course to illustrate that "it's not just glue."
Want to know more?
The Science of Stretch
- H.M. Langevin
- TheScientist published online 1 May 2013
- Article summarizing the context and results of the research. Includes nice graphic showing stretched fibers wrapped around a needle.
Biomechanical response to acupuncture needling in humans
- Helene M. Langevin
- Journal of Applied Physiology December 1, 2001 vol. 91 no. 6 2471-2478
- The original research article.