Recently, a new patient said this after his acupuncture treatment—I feel like the wrinkles in my body have been smoothed out.
That feedback was exceptionally cool for me to hear, because smoothing out connective tissue is what I do every day.
When Western healthcare colleagues ask me how acupuncture works, typically I tell them that I am a "connective tissue realigner". Often times that satisfies their curiosity, but when probed further, I explain that by needling areas of the body where connective tissue has thickened (from injury, disease or stress), blood, lymphatic fluid and nerve impulses can flow more smoothly, which helps the body heal itself.
Acupuncture needles are usually inserted into connective tissue, which is the spongy network of soft tissue that holds all of our cells, organs, muscles, etc. in place. Kiiko Matsumoto, one of the master acupuncturists whose teachings I follow, explains that an acupuncture needle should be inserted into the "gummy", which is a thickened area along the meridian where acupuncture points are located. This gummy usually goes away after needling, which is why I think of that response as smoothing out the connective tissue.
A more simplistic way of understanding this realignment of connective tissue is to think of a wrinkled bedsheet on a bed. One way of smoothing out the wrinkles is to spread them out with your hand, which may work but may cause more wrinkles. Instead, if you tug at the edges, there's a chance that the wrinkles will be smoothed out more efficiently. Some of the most powerful acupuncture points are located from the elbows to the hands and from the knees to the feet. This helps explain why there are acupuncture points in the legs for treating headaches or shoulder pain.
So the next time you receive acupuncture, think about the wrinkles in your body that are preventing you from moving freely, from sleeping deeply and from maintaining a calm mind. These wrinkles can be smoothed out.