What is it?
Acupuncture is the procedure of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.
The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, “needle”, and pungere, “to prick”.
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are situated on meridians along which qi, the vital energy, flows. There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians.
In China, the practice of acupuncture can perhaps be traced as far back as the Stone Age, with the Bian shi, or sharpened stones. Acupuncture’s origins in China are uncertain. The earliest Chinese medical text that first describes acupuncture is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (History of Acupuncture) Huangdi Neijing, which was compiled around 305–204 B.C. Some hieroglyphics have been found dating back to 1000 B.C. that may indicate early use of acupuncture. According to one legend, acupuncture started in China when some soldiers who were wounded by arrows in battle experienced relief of pain in other parts of the body, and consequently, people started experimenting with arrows (and later needles) as therapy. Acupuncture spread from China to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam and elsewhere in East Asia. Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century were among the first to bring reports of acupuncture to the West.
Traditional Theories of Acupuncture:
In Traditional Chinese medicine, “health” is considered a condition of balance of yin and yang within the body. Some have compared yin and yang to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Particularly important in acupuncture is the free flow of Qi, a difficult-to-translate concept that pervades Chinese philosophy and is commonly translated as “vital energy”. Qi is immaterial and hence yang; its yin, the material counterpart is Blood (capitalized to distinguish it from physiological blood, and very roughly equivalent to it). Acupuncture treatment regulates the flow of Qi and Blood, tonifying where there is a deficiency, draining where there is excess, and promoting free flow where there is stagnation. An axiom of the medical literature of acupuncture is “no pain, no blockage; no blockage, no pain.”
Traditional Chinese medicine treats the human body as a whole that involves several “systems of function” generally named after anatomical organs but not directly associated with them. The Chinese term for these systems is Zang Fu, where Zang is translated as “viscera” or solid organs and fu is translated as “bowels” or hollow organs. In order to distinguish systems of function from physical organs, Zang Fu is capitalized in English, thus Lung, Heart, Kidney, etc. The disease is understood as a loss of balance of Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood (which bears some resemblance to homeostasis). Treatment of disease is attempted by modifying the activity of one or more systems of function through the activity of needles, pressure, heat, etc. on sensitive parts of the body of small volume traditionally called “acupuncture points” in English, or “xue” in Chinese. This is referred to in TCM as treating “patterns of disharmony.”
Why is it Best?
Most of the main acupuncture points are found on the “twelve main meridians” and two of the “eight extra meridians” (Du Mai and Ren Mai) a total of “fourteen channels”, which are described in classical and traditional Chinese medical texts, as pathways through which Qi and “Blood” flow. Other tender points (known as “ashi points”) may also be needed as they are believed to be where stagnation has gathered.
Series of diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been demonstrated as an effective treatment:
- Allergic rhinitis
- A headache
- Nausea and vomiting including morning sickness
- Pain in the epigastrium, face, neck, tennis elbow, lower back, knee, during dentistry and after operations
- Primary dysmenorrhea
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cervical and Lumbar Spondylosis
- Bronchial Asthma