The History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture, as a unique and crucial element of traditional medicine in China, has a significant role in terms of health for the Chinese, hence occupying an important place in ancient traditional medicine in China. For thousands of years, this technique has been a vital part of medicine for people living in the East, nonetheless as it gains popularity in the West, medical doctors here still have to understand how this prehistoric technique works. Despite the mechanisms, acupuncture seems to be effective. Research studies are providing actual evidence that can help to cure ailments ranging from migraine headaches to osteoarthritis as well as relieve pain. This technique involves insertion of needles in different pressure points (referred to as acupoints) all over the whole body. Stimulation of the above points is alleged to enhance the capability of the body to heal naturally as well as improve functionality.

The Foundation of Acupuncture

Examination in the history of the Chinese begins in a period referred to as the Early Zhou. This period began from -1027 to -772 and comprised of typical feudalism in China. The Zhou dynasty came to be through military conquest, whose success was due to not only lack of proper defense but also as a result of increased agricultural productivity. A high production of crops as a result of irrigation systems managed by communities ensured more of the people were fed by minimal laborers, which eventually resulted to conscription of bigger armies from the peasants and winning war of the Shang.

The early Zhou had minimal connection to acupuncture. In fact, the people believed that demons had a harmful effect on human beings. Therefore, human health was left under the control of demonology and supernatural powers. They also believed that some shaman leaders had magical powers and were responsible for providing rain, purging evil influences, poisonous creatures as well as calming violent storms. However, this does not mean that the early Zhou did not play a part in the Chinese medicine. This era is responsible for staging the next period in the history of the Chinese, whereby medicine began to take root as an important autonomous entity.

In the period -771, the feudal agreement of the early Zhou was interrupted during the time when the foreign alliance did not succeed. This forced the capital of the Zhou to move further east hence leading to the rise of a new period called Middle Zhou. Even though it is right to say that Chinese arts did not rise in the middle of this ruthlessness of this new state, this period experienced a major rise in medicine. It is during the Zhou era that medicine, though still under dominion of the demonology and magical correspondences, started to grow as a separate entity and take its place different from religion in the social class. This is evident in the various descriptions of doctors in Zhou records, including veterinary surgeons, dieticians, surgeons and physicians.

Between the period 220 and 889, the Chinese underwent another episode of political instability and turmoil. Buddhism began to take root in China even though it had minimal influence over traditional practices like acupuncture. However, it provided new theories that helped maintain the health of the body through physiological healing procedures and physical exercises. Acupuncture continued to grow during this period. In the year 282, Huang-fu Mi finished (The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) book, which is the oldest text dedicated to acupuncture. The book was responsible for outlining 649 out of the 670 acupoints known to date. Additionally, it was the first book to give emphasis to acupuncture as a way of preventing disease.

The East and the Other East

There are two varying theories that exist regarding the functionality of acupuncture. According to the philosophy of the Chinese people, the body comprises of two contrasting forces: they are yang and ying. When the forces are balanced means the body is fit. Energy referred to as ‟qi″ (pronounced as ‟chee″) flows like a river alongside meridians or pathways all through the body. The continuous flow of energy ensures the yang and ying are balanced. However, the energy flow can at times be blocked, similar to water trapped at the back of a dam. An interruption of energy can result to sickness.

On average, 2000 dissimilar acupuncture points stretch out alongside the meridians on the body. The notion behind this technique is that stimulation of such points with pressure or acupuncture needles lessens barriers in energy flow hence making it possible for the body to recover. The western perception of acupuncture is that it works through stimulation of the nervous system (the spinal cord and brain) to get rid of chemicals known as hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals regulate various body functions, improve the immune system, and dull pain.

Types of Acupuncture

There are different types of acupuncture that have their origin in different parts of the globe. In the USA, medical doctors mostly use acupuncture that relies on Chinese medicine, which reinstates the natural flow of energy by arousing pressure points all over the body that match different organ systems. Some of the different types of acupuncture include:

  • Korean hand acupuncture – It is similar to auricular acupuncture, apart from the hand, it acts as the focal point as opposed to the ear. Parts on the hand meridians, when excited correspond to different body parts.
  • Auricular acupuncture – It was first developed in France and it majors on all body points only in the ear. There are 200 points that line the ears and each of them is linked to a certain area in the body. Stimulation of a point causes electrical impulses that flow, through the brain, to a particular body part. For instance, when a point in the ear with a linkage to the knee is stimulated, it affects symptoms in the knee or cause pain. This form of treatment is thought to have similar effects as acupuncture for the entire body, since stimulation on the ears is believed to have an effect on the flow of chi all over the body.
  • Five element acupuncture – An old technique originating from China and used to treat ailments of the mind and body. It relies on the idea that health, similar to anything else in the earth, is controlled by five elements: metal, earth, fire, wood. Striking a balance between the above elements inside the body, will cause one to have good health.
  • Japanese acupuncture – It is more delicate compared to Chinese acupuncture. Its needles appear shorter and thinner, and hardly cut the skin. There are two types of Japanese acupuncture: local and root. Local acupuncture treats particular symptoms while root aims at imbalance of energy in the body.
  • Laser acupuncture – A combination of modern science and acupuncture theory. It works by using lasers to stimulate the acupuncture points through the skin, instead of using needles. You can learn more about this technology at

Related Techniques

Traditional acupuncture entails placing of needles at certain pressure points all over the body. There are a variety of the above techniques in existence. However, there are some medical practitioners that add electrical or heat stimulation to boost healing effects, while on the hand, other people use pressure in place of needles. Some of the styles include:

  • Cupping – This styles involves placing heated cups or jars all over the skin. Suction draws the skin inside the cups hence creation of a vacuum-like effect which results to stimulation at acupuncture points.
  • Moxibustion – It relies on heat to stimulate acupoints. Heat generation occurs through burning an herb known as moxa which is derived from the mugwort plant. There are two forms of moxibustion: indirect and direct. Direct moxibustion involves placing a tiny piece of the herb on the skin and burning it at acupuncture point, since this can leave scars and is painful too, majority of doctors prefer indirect moxibustion. Indirect moxibustion involves wrapping moxa inside a piece of paper and holding it close to the surface of the skin. At times, moxa is wrapped in the region surrounding the needles and lit in order to add more stimulation to the treatment.
  • Acupressure – The same principle used in acupuncture is also applied in acupressure. However, it applies pressure contrary to needles. A therapist presses onto an individual’s acupoints using his or her fingers, and grasps for several seconds.
  • Sonopuncture – It works through application of sound waves to the acupoints. Due to the vibrations, stimulation takes place in the pressure points but more subtly compared to needles. This technique is frequently performed in conjunction with acupuncture.
  • Electroacupunture – It works by sending electrical currents throughout the needles to enable stimulation of acupoints throughout acupuncture.

The Proof of Acupuncture

There has been mixed studies in regards to acupuncture. However, a number of studies indicate its effectiveness in the treatment of a variety of conditions. Some of the highlights include:

Osteoarthritis- A research done in the year 2004 ‟Annals of internal Medicine″ concluded that acupuncture caused a significant reduction in pain and enhanced functionality in individuals with osteoarthritis that could not be cured using modern medicine. The research comprised of 294 patients who had severe osteoarthritis. Eight weeks lapsed and those who had undergone acupuncture showed a reduction in pain in their affected knees compared to those that had not received the treatment.

In-vitro fertilization- A trio conducted in 2006 suggested that acupuncture is capable of assisting women who were going thorough in-vitro fertilization process. When a woman had acupuncture before and after transfer of embryos, they were between 8 and 18 percent likely to become pregnant than those who had no treatment or sham acupuncture.

Fibromyalgia- A mayo clinic in 2006 conducted a study in 50 patients and found that the above technique reduced the symptoms of fibromyalgia, an ailment that results to muscle pains, joint stiffness and fatigue.

Bladder control ailments- The 2005 issue of the Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded that acupuncture was capable of relieving overactive bladder. Out of a group of 74 females, those who underwent acupuncture for controlling the bladder reported 30% minimal urgent trips to the toilet, in contrast to those that acquired sham acupuncture.

Nausea as a result of chemotherapy- A study done in the year 2000, in the ‟Journal of the American Medical Association″ established that anti-nausea medication coupled with electroacupuncture relieved vomiting and nausea as a result of chemicals better than the use of medicines only. The study comprised of 104 females who had breast cancer and were on a high dosage of chemotherapy. Women who had undergone electroacupuncture had only a third of the vomiting incidences compared to that that had not. An earlier research of 11 people also showed acupuncture to be effective in the treatment of nausea caused by chemotherapy, pregnancy as well as surgery.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

The above technique is considered very safe. In the 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) embarked on the classification of acupuncture medical instruments as well as needles hence the need for acupuncturists to use disposable, sterile needles. Additionally, they are also required to swab the acupoints using antiseptic in order to minimize infections. It is very crucial to go to a practitioner who is licensed as badly sterilized needles could transmit ailments. Even though the procedure is safe, it is not meant for everyone. Individuals taking blood thinners (like Coumadin and Heparin) or have bleeding disorders should not consider using acupuncture. It is also not ideal for people who are pacemakers, have infusion pipes or implanted medical gadgets.

How to Find an Acupuncturist

In order to find an acupuncturist, you will first have to make an appointment with your medical practitioner. Your doctor will diagnose your problem and know whether acupuncture will be ideal for treating your ailment. If they think it is the best idea, request for a referral to an acupuncturist who is fully licensed. When picking a physician, one has two choices: a certified acupuncturist, or a physician who is also trained in acupuncture. Most major cities have several licensed acupuncturists working in them. If you live in a small town, your options may be more limited, but you coudl possibly travel to the nearest city to receive treatment.

With the above information about acupuncture, it clearly shows ancient medicine as one of the most complex and oldest medicinal arts. Acupuncture has a long history since its inception and has outlasted attacks from foreign critics for centuries, and will probably be around for centuries more to come.


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