The History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the earliest forms of healing, dating back 5,000 years, with a well recorded history of about 2,000 years. Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures throughout the world. It is based on the ancient Chinese system of knowledge and Chinese philosophy (Confucianism, Taosim [Daoism] and Buddhism).
Acupuncture is the medical procedure of utilizing needles to provide relief of pain and other
common ailments. This medical practice is done by inserting and manipulating very fine hair
thin needles into the skin, sometimes used with electrical stimulus or heat (moxibustion).
In its infancy, sharpened stones were used to apply pressure in specific areas of the body.
Over time, stones gave way to bones and finally, to hair-thin needles.
The early records, going back to Shang dynasty (1000 BC), doctors of Chinese medicine held
discussions of medical disorders, recorded illnesses and their treatments. In the Han Dynasty
(206 BC) the basics of Chinese medical theory were established including the concepts of
relation between Yin and Yang, the channel theory, acupuncture needling methods and
There are approximately 390 acupuncture points on the body. They lie along the 12 meridians
(pathways in the body) along which qi (vital energy) is said to flow.
In the 6th century practice of Chinese medicine and acupuncture was introduced to Korea and
Japan and with time, developed their own variations of Oriental medicine. In 1026 AD during the
Song Dynasty, a complete illustrated manual and Bronze Figure depicting all acupuncture and moxibustion points of the 14 channels, was compiled.
During the Ming Dynasty (1450 AD) in China, the advancement of Acupuncture progressed into a true healing discipline, including written books on the topic, improvement of techniques, and the development of Moxa sticks to apply heat.
In the early 20th century China began to see an explosion in population and practicing Acupuncturists were in high demand, therefore the use of Western medical techniques became popular, while the practice of Acupuncture faded from the mainstream forms of healing techniques. Acupuncture was banned in cities when Chang Khi Chek took power in 1932. Just 13 years later, when Mao Tse Tung closed the doors to China and Western society, including medical practice, Acupuncture was restored to its honored place in Chinese medicine.
During the late 20th century Acupuncture was introduced into Western civilization as the Chinese government once again opened its doors to the rest of the world in 1972. Acupuncture was revealed to the West in a grand way when New York Times journalist, James Reston, had an emergency appendectomy while in China and acupuncture was used as the anesthetic. He later wrote about his experience in the Times and interest piqued among American medical practitioners.
The First Evidence
Surprisingly, the first physical evidence of acupuncture was found in
Europe, not China. In 1991 "The Ice Man" (named Otzi) was discovered
in the Italian Alps along the Austrian border. This was a 5,300-year-old
mummified man that was frozen and amazingly well preserved.
On his body were over 50 preserved "tattoos". They were in a complex
system of bluish-black marks along his back, his right knee and left ankle.
The locations of many of these "tattoos" are precisely where acupuncture
points and meridians are, notably the 'master point for back pain'. It
was thought that this man suffered from back pain, & that was confirmed
with multiple x-rays that showed acute arthritis in the lumbar spine.
Overall, he was in very good health, 45 years old, and died suddenly.
Acupuncture and history have come a long way over the last 5,000 years. In 1996, in the U.S., acupuncture needles were removed from the "investigative" category to "accepted medical instruments" category. In 1997, The National Institute of Health in the U.S. issued the Consensus statement that recognized that "Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States" and "may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program." When considering Acupuncture as a form of medical care, be sure to look for a well-trained professional that uses sterile needles.
Acupuncture & History of Usage Around the World
Egyptians in 1550 B.C. documented (in the Papyrus Ebera medical treatises) vessels
that resembled the 12 meridians in the body.
South African Bantu tribespeople scratched parts of their bodies to cure disease.
Arabs cauterized their ears with hot metal probes.
Eskimos used sharp stones for basic acupuncture.
Ancient Brazilians shot tiny arrows with blow pipes into diseased body parts to cure them.
When ancient warriors were wounded in battle by stones and arrows, sometimes diseases
that affected them for years were now gone.
Sharp stones and bamboo were replaced with fish bones and later with various needles
made of metal.
Today, Acupuncture needles are typically made of stainless steel wire. They are usually
disposable, but reusable needles are sometimes used as well, though they must be sterilized
Today, countries in Asia, such as China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, along with Western European countries and America are constantly studying, researching and developing Acupuncture and other traditional Oriental treatment techniques. In this modern world Acupuncture has become very popular in America, England, Germany, Brazil and France because it works and people are searching for natural forms of treatment. They are motivated by a desire to approach healing with Eastern traditions that have a holistic philosophy and elements of spirituality.
It has a place with individuals who, for diverse reasons, cannot use pharmaceuticals and will go to great lengths to avoid surgery. The essential difference between Western medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine is that the former aims to treat the symptoms of a disease, while the latter aims to diagnose the patterns of a disorder and treats it by bringing the body into homeostasis (balance). The use of new technology, based on the energy flow (qi) which runs through the acupuncture channels, is widely used by modern medical practitioners.
Alternative medicine is becoming popular among patients and medical doctors. Physicians are recognizing the effectiveness of traditional medicine with their patients. Some medical doctors are incorporating Acupuncture in their practice. As a result, medical Acupuncture was created, which is practiced specifically by medical doctors. To be licensed in Acupuncture, MD’s must have 300 hours of basic Acupuncture education.
A licensed Acupuncturist, who is not a medical doctor, must complete rigorous education requirements, which differ from state to state. However it generally takes 3-4 years of extensive study, as well as, a 1 year internship. Over 30,000 Chinese medicine doctors graduate annually from 50 institutes throughout Asia. In America there are about 8000 Acupuncturists.