Acupuncture originates from the Latin words for Needle (acus) and Prick (pungere) or Zhen jiu (Standard Mandarin) and is the technique of inserting and manipulating needles into the various acupuncture points found on our bodies. According to the teachings of acupuncture the use of these techniques will help to restore a person’s health and well being as well as particularly very good for treating pain.
It is thought that acupuncture originates from China and it is certainly most commonly associated in today’s society with Traditional Chinese medicine. However there are other forms of acupuncture such as Japanese, Korean as well as the classical Chinese Acupuncture which are taught and practiced around the globe.
Whether the use of acupuncture is an effective remedy or that patients think it is effective seems to be subject to scientific research. However scientists who have already conducted reviews according to the rules of evidence based medicine on clinical trials already carried out have that it has some benefits in treating headaches, lower back pain and nausea, but in respect of most other conditions they feel that there is insufficient evidence to say whether it is effective or not. You will also find not only the World Health Organisation (WHO), American Medical Association (AMA), National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as various governments have commented on the use of acupuncture but that further research is required. However, the one that all can seem to agree on is that the use of acupuncture is safe as long as it is administered by a well trained and qualified practitioner.
When looking back on the history of acupuncture it can be traced back in China as far back as the 1st Millennium BC and there is archaeological evidence where it was used during the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 220AD). There have also been forms of it described in Korean literature called Chimsul and is also an important part of the traditional medicine system in Japan and is called Kampo.
During the recent examination of a 5,000 year old mummy (Otzi) found in the Alps it was discovered that the mummy had over 50 tattoos on its body and some of these were located on various acupuncture points that would now days be used to treat certain ailments that Otzi seemed to suffer from. Some scientists even believe that this provides us with evidence that practices were carried out similar to acupuncture elsewhere in Eurasia during the Bronze Age period. But unfortunately there is no evidence to prove that the tattoos on Otzi’s body were used as acupuncture points or they were just a decoration.
It is uncertain that acupuncture originates in China as the earliest medical texts found (68BC) do not have any mention of this form of treatment. The first real Chinese medical text to mention acupuncture comes from the Yellow Emperor’s “Classic of Internal Medicine (History of Acupuncture)” which compiled around the period 305-204BC. There has also been the discovery of hieroglyphics dating back to around 1,000BC which may indicate the use of acupuncture also.
Another thing which seems to suggest that the Chinese were not the first to use acupuncture is the discovery of sharp pointed stones (Bian stones) in ruins which were used to treat diseases in ancient times. Some people (scholars) believe that the use of these stones for bloodletting was a precursor to certain acupuncture techniques.
In fact in a book written by R C Crozier (Traditional Medicine in Modern China) it says that the early Chinese Communist Party had expressed considerable aversion towards many classical forms of Chinese medicine, deriding it as mumbo jumbo, irrational and backwards and that it conflicted with the Party’s reliance on science as a way of progress. Acupuncture was certainly included in the Party’s criticism of all such practices. But later on the Communist Party Chairman Mao then reversed what the party had been saying by saying that “Chinese medicine and pharmacology are the greatest treasure house and efforts should be made to explore them and raise them to a higher level”. Following this reversal representatives were sent out across China from the party to collect information on the theories and practices of Chinese medicine, thus the TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) system of Chinese medicine was created and includes the use of Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na and other forms. However, after the Cultural Revolution the instruction of TCM was incorporated in to the University medical curricula throughout China under the “Three Roads” policy. This is where TCM, biomedicine and a synthesis of the two would be encouraged and development permitted. But unfortunately after this time some forms of classical Chinese medicine other than TCM where outlawed and because of this a number of practitioners of these methods left China.
It is thought that the first forms of acupuncture to reach the USA were brought into the country by non-TCM practitioners and many employed styles of acupuncture that they had been handed down through the family or from master to apprentice, and is collectively known as Classical Chinese Acupuncture.