Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical technique that is gaining popularity and acceptance in the West. It involves stimulating certain points of the body, most commonly by inserting very thin needles into the skin.
Acupuncture is a traditional art therapy which is developing its diagnostic reasoning and therapeutic energy Taoist vision of man and the universe: the human microcosm is subject to the same rules, which will inspire lifestyle, and will frame the development of the medical procedure. The effectiveness of acupuncture is not a scientifically proven fact.
The common Chinese term zhenjiu refers to both acupuncture and moxibustion. The Latin term “acupunctura” was coined in the seventeenth century in Holland by a doctor who stayed in Japan, called Willem ten Rhyne, from the Latin acus, “needle”. From this Latin term derives the French and English words “acupuncture” or the German term “Akupunktur”. So the meaning of acupuncture is needle.
In India, the use of acupuncture is mentioned there are about 5,000 years ago in Ayurveda (Ayurvedic medicine Treaty) and is used today in traditional Indian medicine.
More than a thousand years before China, one found in ancient Egypt a description of ducts running through the body carrying various fluids (blood, water, air, mucus etc).
The balance between these fluids could be the cause of disease. Around 1534 BC, the Ebers Papyrus (Eber 854A), in the British Museum, gives a representation of channels (called metu) which circulate in various fluids. “There are four vessels in the nostrils, both give mucus, both give blood. There are four vessels to the liver; it is they who create the mood and air, which then causes all diseases arisen by the overload of blood.”
First Traces of Chinese Acupuncture
The Chinese are accustomed to consider the value of a cultural practice judged by its length. Placing themselves under the authority of an old master, he was legendary, with a tradition of more than 5000 years, is the guarantee of seriousness and respectability of the process. ”Without trampling traces, we can not reach into the room” said the Master (Entretiens XI, 19).
The Chinese thinker so openly claimed guardianship and flees anything that might resemble the autonomy of dear thought to European philosophers. The discovery in 1973 of 14 medical records in a newly excavated tomb in Mawangdui in Hunan has fully reviewed the history of Chinese medicine. Currently these texts establish the following chronology:
In 168 BC, when closing the Mawangdui grave, no acupuncture technique was known. The texts of these tombs show clearly that the typical features of the therapeutic Chinese were not yet established in the Qin (-221, -206) and early Han.
The first reference to acupuncture is clearly dated in the “historical memory” (the Shiji) by Sima Qian (-145, -87) compiled in 90 BC. In this book, the author described a doctor named Chunyu Yi (-216, -150) accused of malpractice for treatment of implanted needles on patients. In two trials, and in 167 – 154, the physician is obliged to demonstrate the therapeutic benefit of acupuncture at a time when this technology was just beginning to spread. It could therefore date the birth of acupuncture to the middle of the second century BC. It will prevail then gradually as the dominant therapeutic medicine of systematic correspondence.
The Huangdi Nei Jing, the reference book on acupuncture, massage, gymnastics and therapeutic drugs is in part post. The texts are heterogeneous, some parts may date from the late Warring States period (-500 to -220) and other first century BCE.
Anyway, it is no copy of the Han period and all options that have survived have undergone numerous revisions over the centuries. The Nanjing, “the Classic of Difficulties” unifies disparate viewpoints and is sometimes incoherent of Huangdi Neijing. The work, composed between I and III century, methodically exposes the conceptual system of systematic correspondences underpinning two millennia of traditional Chinese medicine.
What Does Acupuncture Do?
The most common new use in America for acupuncture is weight management. Read more about acupuncture for weight loss.
Acupuncture for Pain
Most scientific studies of acupuncture have focused on its use for pain. It appears to be quite effective in treating chronic pain, such as chronic low back pain, neck pain and joint pain. A common acupuncture for pain treatment plan is to schedule six to 12 sessions over the course of a few months. For chronic pain, regular maintenance treatments every few weeks may be necessary.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is effective because it balances the flow of the life force (chi) through meridians in the body. According to most Western acupuncture practitioners, acupuncture is effective because it stimulates nerves, muscles and connective tissues. Stimulating certain points on the body causes the body to produce natural painkillers and stimulate healing blood flow.
Acupuncture for Fertility
Dr. Stener from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Fertility Centre in Scandinavia says “the most effective fertility treatments use a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional medicine.” Most acupuncture for fertility treatments begin with a series of acupuncture treatments intended to encourage a thick, healthy lining of the uterus to grow and to encourage the ovaries to function properly. Herbal medicines are used to facilitate these same effects. After three or four months of these treatments, patients typically progress to artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization or donor-egg transfer. Occasionally, patients will conceive naturally during the acupuncture treatments.
Once a pregnancy has been confirmed, herbal medicines are discontinued but acupuncture continues until the pregnancy is well-established (week 12). There are, however, certain acupuncture points that should not be stimulated during pregnancy because they can trigger premature labor and miscarriages.
Acupuncture is only effective for certain types of infertility problems. For example, scarring of the Fallopian tubes does not respond to acupuncture. However, many hormonal imbalances, repeated pregnancy loss, infertility of unknown origin, and polycystic ovarian disease often respond satisfactorily to acupuncture.
Acupuncture for Anxiety
Treating severe anxiety with therapy is difficult because often months of therapy are necessary before any results are seen. Therefore, most patients are given medications which can cause severe side effects. Acupuncture, however, can reduce anxiety within one or two treatments, and the results improve with each successive treatment.
Practitioners believe that stimulating certain nerve pathways with acupuncture needles causes the brain to produce neurotransmitters that balance the emotions. This effect reduces anxiety and relieves stress.
Acupuncture for Depression
Acupuncture for depression works much the same way that acupuncture for anxiety does. Actually, many people who have anxiety also have depression, and each acupuncture treatment can treat both disorders simultaneously.
Some studies have found that acupuncture is just as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression, without any of the side effects of medication. Acupuncture also works faster than medication for depression. Anti-depressants can take up to six weeks before exhibiting any effect, but acupuncture can significantly relieve depression symptoms within two to four weeks.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
A lot of people keep asking does acupuncture hurt? – Because the needles are very thin, most individuals report feeling only minor discomfort during treatment. Once placed, the needles may produce a deep, aching sensation. Usually five to 20 needles are used per treatment, and they are left in place for up to 20 minutes. Some practitioners twirl the needles or apply mild electrical stimulation to them.
Is it Safe?
When proper sterile technique is used, acupuncture is quite safe. However, when not performed properly, infections, punctured organs and nerve damage may occur. Acupuncture needles are regulated by the FDA and are required to be sterile single-use only; the practitioner should be opening brand-new packages of acupuncture needles for each patient. Most states require practitioners obtain a license or certificate before being able to treat patients.
Because of the safety of acupuncture, many medical doctors encourage patients to try it and see if it relieves symptoms. If it is going to be effective for a particular patient, an obvious improvement in symptoms will be seen within two or three treatment sessions. Many insurance companies will cover acupuncture treatments.