What does Medical Acupuncture and Exercise have in common?

acu exerciseMedical Acupuncture including Dry Needling helps ease pain, normalise muscle tension, and promotes tissue healing and repair1. It is also associated with an increase in brain serotonin levels1 which may partly explain how this technique often leaves my patients feeling in a better mood, more relaxed and at ease.

Similar feelings of well being are often felt after exercise, especially exercise which promotes muscle contractions2,3 such as PhysioPilates. This may be due to there being a physiological overlap between physical exercise and needling.

In both Acupuncture and during exercise, it would appear that certain specialised receptors in muscle, known as ‘ergoreceptors’ are being stimulated4. These receptors sense changes in muscle tension, position and movement. They feed this information back to the brain, helping co-ordinate physical activity so that we don’t fall over or drop something heavy on our toes.

An additional effect is the activation of the Raphe Nuclei in the brain which releases serotonin, that ‘feel good’ chemical which also plays a role in the perception of pain5.

It may be partly for this reason that Medical Acupuncture and exercise seem to have a synergistic effect, and why in my practice I like to use the former to facilitate or promote the latter. In other words, use Acupuncture to help people exercise, which in turn prolongs the physical and emotional benefits of Acupuncture.


1. White, A., & Filshie, J. (Eds.). (2008). An introduction to western medical acupuncture.

2. Palmer, J. A., Palmer, L. K., Michiels, K., & Thigpen, B. (1995). Effects of type of exercise on depression in recovering substance abusers. Perceptual and motor skills, 80(2), 523-530.

3. Stein, P. N., & Motta, R. W. (1992). Effects of aerobic and nonaerobic exercise on depression and self-concept. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 74(1), 79-89.

4. Lund, I., & Lundeberg, T. (2015). Effects triggered in the periphery by acupuncture. Acupuncture and Related Therapies, 3(2), 24-34.

5. Takeshige, C., Sato, T., Mera, T., Hisamitsu, T., & Fang, J. (1992). Descending pain inhibitory system involved in acupuncture analgesia. Brain research bulletin, 29(5), 617-634.

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