Acupuncture has been used in pain management for so many years, however, its use in dermatology and cosmetics and now acne scars is becoming a turning point in history of acupuncture. Acupuncture, simply stated, is a health science which is used to successfully treat both pain and dysfunction in the body. Acupuncture originates in far east with more than 5000 years of history, utilizes needles placed into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. There are certain points where the needles are applied. Many of these points are where the thick nerve fibers lie. Early Chinese physicians discovered there is an energy network traversing just below the surface of the skin which communicates from the exterior to the internal organs and structures over 1,000 “Acupoints” on the body. This energy works in harmony with the body’s circulatory, nervous, muscular, digestive, genitourinary and all other systems of the body. When this vital energy becomes blocked or weakened, an effect in a body system or anatomic location becomes evident. Stimulation of one or a combination of key “Acupoints” on the body may restore harmony to the affected area. Now acupuncture open its doors to dermatology by proving how it may work in skin regeneration and acne scars acupuncture may become one of the first utilization of this method in practical dermatology.
Several mechanisms have been postulated, among the very interesting ones, we can name “gate theory“. Nerve pathways through small-diameter nerves could be inhibited by stimulating large-diameter nerves. It seems most points stimulated in acupuncture target large-diameter nerves. Another hypothesis is that microneedles stimulation of the subcutaneous nerves is associated with release of enkefalines and endorphins. these mechanisms may explain role of acupuncture in pain management, but how can we explain its role in scar treatment?
It seems insertion of each needle inside the skin causes some injury in the dermis and even deeper skin layers. This mimics the same scenario of a beam of laser in the skin. This skin injury would be followed by a local inflammation and proliferation of cytokines. some of these cytokines are chemotactic for fibroblasts and the resulting collagen synthesis or some like nitric oxide, cause vasodilation. Role of acupuncture in treatment of acne scars originates from the fact that many acne scars are atrophic and loss of subcutaneous tissue is the cause. Acupuncture by activating these repair mechanisms, among them enhancement of skin microcirculation, can help with attenuation in semblance of disfiguring acne scars.
There are theories that can support role of acupuncture in dermatology treatments among them acne scars acupuncture treatment. However, years of research and clinical data is needed to prove its efficacy. Even though there are similarities between the way laser treatments work on acne scars and the way acupunture needles affect the skin, differences are also significant. Among the differences is amount of energy applied to the skin. Laser effects on the skin are more visible and could be shown in less time. Acupuncture immediate results are not as readily seen following the treatments.