Although many theories have been presented, there is still no easy answer to the common question, how does acupuncture work?
The "Gate Control" theory suggests that pain impulses are blocked from reaching the spinal cord or brain at various "gates" to these areas. Since a majority of acupuncture points are either located near, or connected to neural structures, this suggests that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to "shut the gate" to the sensation of pain.
Other theories suggest that acupuncture stimulates the body to produce narcotic like substances such as endorphins which, when released into the body, relieve pain.
One thing is certain, although we may not know precisely how it works, studies have shown that it does work for a large majority of people and for a wide range of concerns and conditions.
Do I have to believe in it for it to work?
The answer to this question is no. While having a positive state of mind helps with any type of treatment, conventional or otherwise, it is not necessary to "believe" in acupuncture for it to work. This is evidenced not only through clinical study in "non-believers", but by the fact that animals and small children who cannot be instructed to "believe" receive relief through the use of acupuncture.