Therapeutic modulation of the psychoneuroimmune system by medical acupuncture creates enhanced feelings of well-being

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2006 Apr;18(4):135-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2006.00115.x.


Purpose: This article includes an explanation of how stressors disrupt physiologic regulatory mechanisms leading to disease states, how environmental challenges alter the function of the psychoneuroimmune system, and how correction of aberrant action potentials will stabilize homeostatic regulatory functions, inducing an escape response from stressors and leading to enhanced feelings of well-being. An explanation of how medical acupuncture accomplishes this stabilization concludes the article.

Data source: Extensive review of the worldwide scientific literature from the 1970s through current literature, on acupuncture, neurophysiology, and psychoneuroimmune system, using the theoretical framework of Martha Rogers.

Conclusions: It is estimated that 80% of all illnesses are stress induced, although the physiologic mechanisms by which stress induces detrimental changes are not well understood by the medical profession. Introducing specific rhythmic electrical impulses slightly more intense than the nervous system already generates with the intervention of medical acupuncture can therapeutically alter aberrant signals induced by stressors, which may result in the release of neuropeptides and stabilization of homeostatic regulation so that health outcomes are improved. As neurological activity is altered, the firing pattern of nerves is changed. This is a change in the electrical pattern that leads to a change in the biochemical pattern. Thus, medical acupuncture is a therapy that is in agreement with Martha Rogers' conceptual model. Therapeutic techniques may improve the individual's level of wellness by direct actions toward homeostatic stabilization of the autonomic nervous system. These techniques will not change the amount of stressors a person is subject to but will change the physiological response to them. When the nervous system is in homeostatic balance, individuals will report enhanced feelings of well-being, be more effective in coping with their conditions of living, and therefore be less susceptible to illness.

Implications for practice: Nurse practitioners have an opportunity to expand into an unused dimension for nursing care through direct treatment of the central and autonomic nervous system that will influence the psychoneuroimmune system. A prescriptive theory explaining medical acupuncture provides for therapeutic interventions at the primary, secondary, and tertiary level of care. Primary preventive interventions alter the effects of stress before it leads to illness by assisting homeostatic stability of the autonomic nervous system. Secondary interventions allow treatment of many health conditions regulated by neurological activity. Tertiary care provides a method to assist autonomic regulation when the body is no longer able to maintain homeostatic stability because of chronic illness or injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Acupuncture Therapy* / methods
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Health Status
  • Holistic Health*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Nurse Practitioners / organization & administration
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Primary Prevention
  • Psychoneuroimmunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome