Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique of stimulation, by means of needles, of specific sites on the skin, mucous membranes or subcutaneous tissues of the human body.
It aims to maintain and improve our well-being, and to promote or restore our health. It can prevent disorders, diseases, or any imbalances in the body. Studies have shown that acupuncture can alleviate pains by stimulating the production and release of endorphins, our body's natural pain killer.
Acupuncture treatment includes either (a) the administration of manual, mechanical, thermal and electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles, (b) the use of laser acupuncture, magnetic therapy or acupressure, or (c) moxibustion and suction cupping.
Acupuncture involves the use of sterilized and disposable high-quality stainless steel needles. It is always administered by well trained practitioners.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has cited more than 104 different conditions that acupuncture can treat, in no particular order:
- common cold
- inflammation of the eyes
- stroke rehabilitation
- menstrual cramps
- tennis elbow
- myofascial pain
- low back pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
Studies have also indicated that acupuncture has great promising results in post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain.
Acupuncture is known to have originated in China and is most commonly associated with Chinese herbal medicine, under the umbrella of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It has been recognized, practiced and taught throughout the world. People have appreciated it for its non-chemical approach, simple application, wide range of use, good curative effect, and low cost. Acupuncture has become a part of the medical science and culture.
1. Acupuncture and moxibustion appeared in Chinese history as early as 100,000 years ago in the clan commune period of the primitive society.
2. Ancient literature cites the origins of acupuncture and moxibustion to Fu Xi 's creation of stone needles and Huang Di's invention of moxibustion.
3. In the Old Stone Age, stone knives and scrapers were used to incise an abscess, drain pus and let blood out for therapeutic purposes.
4. In the New Stone Age, stone needles (also called bian stone) were used more prominently.
5. 476 B.C., Shang Dynasty, the hieroglyphs of acupuncture and moxibustion appeared in the inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells. Bronze needles developed.
6. In the Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) stone needles were replaced by metal needles.
7. From A.D. 25 – 220 to 220 – 265, Three Kingdoms Period, Hua Tuo was the pioneer to apply herbal anesthesia for surgical operations, he was ascribed the authorship of Canon of moxibustion and acupuncture Preserved in Pillow (lost). Zhang Zhongjing also memtioned the methods of acupuncture, moxibustion, fire needling, warm needling, etc. in his book Treastise on Febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases.
8. A.D. 261 – 581, doctor Ge Hong wrote the book Prescriptions for Emergencies.
9. A.D. 650 – 652, Sun Simiao compiled Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies, and A Supplement to the Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold (680-682).
10. A.D. 1027, two bronze acupuncture figures designed by Wang Weiyi were manufactured.
11. A.D. 1341, doctor Hua Shou wrote the book Exposition of the Fourteen Meridians, further developed the theory of meridians and acupuncture points.
12. Doctors laid emphasis on the theory and technique of a particular aspect. So different branches of acupuncture and moxibustion were formed. Many publications were published: Canon of Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Children's Diseases (lost), Moxibustion Methods for Emergencies. The Secret of Moxibustion for Abscess and Ulcer.Xi Hong of the early Southern Song Dynasty who was from a famous acupuncturist family, particularly stressed the manipulating technique of acupuncture. Dou Cai: Bian Que's Medical Experiences, in which he highly praised the scorching moxibustion, and even gave a general anesthesia to avoid pain while applying scorching moxibustion. Yang Jie and Zhang Ji observed autopsies, and advocated selecting acupuncture points in the light of anatomical knowledge. He Ruoyu and Dou HanQin of the Jin and Yuan dynasties suggested that the acupuncture points should be selected according to ziwuliuzhu (Chinese two-hour time on the basis of Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches).
13. Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) acupuncture and moxibustion were worked up to a climax that many problems were studied deeper and broader. The main accomplishments in the Ming Dynasty were: 1. Extensive collection and revision of the literature of acupuncture and moxibustion: Prescriptions for Universal Relief (1406), A Complete Collection of Acupuncture and Moxibustion by Xu Feng in the fifteenth century, An Exemplary Collection of Acupuncture and Moxibustion by Gao Wu in 1529, Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion in 1601 based on Yang Jizhou's work, Six Volumes on Acupuncture Prescriptions by Wu Kun in 1618, and An Illustrated Supplement to Systematic Compilation of the Internal Classic by Zhang Jiebin in 1624, etc. All these works were the summarization of literature of acupuncture and moxibustion through the ages. 2. Studies on the manipulating methods of acupuncture. On the basis of single manipulation of acupuncture, more than twenty kinds of compound manipulation were developed. Questions and Answers Concerning Acupuncture and Moxibustion by Wang Ji in 1530 was the representative work of that academical dispute. 3. Development of warm moxibustion: with burning moxa sticks and with burning moxa cone. 4. Sorting out the previous records of acupuncture sites located away from the Fourteen Meridians and formation of a new category of extra points.
14. Qing Dynasty to the Opium War (1644-1840), the medical doctors regarded herbal medication as superior to acupuncture, therefore acupuncture and moxibustion gradually less prominent.
15. 1817, The Source of Acupuncture and Moxibusion was compiled by Li Xuechuan. In it, the 361 points on the Fourteen Meridians were listed systematically; acupuncture and moxibustion were given equal emphasis.
16. In 1950, China officially unified Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western Medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion have become healthcare practices in hospitals. In the late 1950's to the 1960's acupuncture researchers continued further study the ancient texts, clinical efficacy of various diseases and acupuncture anesthesia, structural education systems and practice standard were established.
17. In the 1970's, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine have become dual medical system in China. China has taken the lead in researching all aspects of acupuncture''''s application and clinical effects. Acupuncture has developed specialties on pediatric, gynecology, geriatric, orthopedics, cadiology, respirology, ear/nose/throat, gastrology, oncology, traumatology, cosmetology, dermatology, andrology, nephropathy, urology, psychology, rehabilitation, sports medicine, and so on.
18. In the last three decades, acupuncture has become an increasingly popular alternative therapy benefiting billions of people. It has been recognized, practiced and taught throughout the world. People have appreciated it for its non-chemical approach, simple application, wide range of use, good curative effect, and low cost. Acupuncture has become a part of the medical science and culture.
19. On November 22, 1987, the First International Acupuncture Congress was held, during which the WFAS (World Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies) was proclaimed to be formally founded. The First Member Congress accepted 57 societies (including 5 international societies) covering nearly a hundred countries and regions which from Asia, Europe and America, representing over 37000 acupuncture personnel. The constitution and code of ethics of WFAS were passed and adopted in that congress.
20. WFCMS (World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies) has been founded. Currently WFCMS has 157 Chinese medicine societies in 50 countries and regions.
Acupuncture treats the human body as a whole rather than treats the individual symptom, that is, involves several "systems of function" which are in some cases associated with physical organs. Some systems of function, such as the "triple heater" (San Jiao, also called the "triple burner") have no corresponding physical organ. Disease is understood as a loss of homeostasis among the several systems of function, and 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" (cavities) in Chinese. This is referred to as treating "patterns of disharmony".
Treatment of acupuncture points may be performed along the twelve main or eight extra meridians, located throughout the body, or on tender points, called "ashi" Of the eight extra meridians, only two have acupuncture points of their own. The other six meridians are "activated" by using a master and couple point technique which involves needling the acupuncture points located on the twelve main meridians that correspond to the particular extra meridian. Ten of the main meridians are named after organs of the body (Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lung, Kidney, Small Intestine, Gallbladder, Stomach, Large Intestine and Bladder.), and the other two are named after so called body functions (Pericardium, and San Jiao). The meridians are capitalized to avoid confusion with a physical organ (for example, we write the "Heart meridian" as opposed to the "heart meridian"). The two most important of the eight "extra" meridians are situated on the midline of the anterior and posterior aspects of the trunk and head. The twelve primary meridians run vertically, bilaterally, and symmetrically and every channel corresponds to and connects internally with one of the twelve Zang Fu ("organs"). This means that there are six yin and six yang channels. There are three yin and three yang channels on each arm, and three yin and three yang on each leg.
The three yin channels of the hand (Lung, Pericardium, and Heart) begin on the chest and travel along the inner surface (mostly the anterior portion) of the arm to the hand.
The three yang channels of the hand (Large intestine, San Jiao, and Small intestine) begin on the hand and travel along the outer surface (mostly the posterior portion) of the arm to the head.
The three yang channels of the foot (Stomach, Gallbladder, and Bladder) begin on the face, in the region of the eye, and travel down the body and along the outer surface (mostly the anterior and lateral portion) of the leg to the foot.
The three yin channels of the foot (Spleen, Liver, and Kidney) begin on the foot and travel along the inner surface (mostly posterior and medial portion) of the leg to the chest or flank.
The movement of Qi through each of the twelve channels is comprised of an internal and an external pathway. The external pathway is what is normally shown on an acupuncture chart and it is relatively superficial. All the acupuncture points of a channel lie on its external pathway. The internal pathways are the deep course of the channel where it enters the body cavities and related Zang-Fu organs. The superficial pathways of the twelve channels describe three complete circuits of the body.
The distribution of Qi through the meridians is said to be as follows: Lung channel of hand taiyin to Large Intestine channel of hand yangming to Stomach channel of foot yangming to Spleen channel of foot taiyin to Heart channel of hand shaoyin to Small Intestine channel of hand taiyang to Bladder channel of foot taiyang to Kidney channel of foot shaoyin to Pericardium channel of hand jueyin to San Jiao channel of hand shaoyang to Gallbladder channel of foot shaoyang to Liver channel of foot jueyin then back to the Lung channel of hand taiyin.
Chinese medical theory holds that acupuncture works by normalizing the free flow of Qi throughout the body. Pain or illnesses are treated by attempting to remedy local or systemic accumulations or deficiencies of Qi. Pain is considered to indicate blockage or stagnation of the flow of Qi, and an axiom of the medical literature of acupuncture is "pain because of blockage; no blockage, no pain".
Many patients claim to experience the sensations of stimulus known in Chinese as "deQi" ("obtaining the Qi" or "arrival of the Qi"). This kind of sensation was historically considered to be evidence of effectively locating the desired point. There are some electronic devices now available which will make a "Beebe" sound when what they have been programmed to describe as the "correct" acupuncture point is pressed. However, experienced acupuncturist can always insert the needles precisely by using the techniques of "Finger Cun Measurement or Bone Length Measurement. "
The acupuncturist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning the patient in order to make a diagnosis according to the tradition which he or she utilizes. In TCM, there are four diagnostic methods: inspection, auscultation and olfaction, inquiring, and palpation. Inspection focuses on the face and particularly on the tongue, including analysis of the tongue size, shape, tension, color and coating, and the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge. Auscultation and olfaction refer, respectively, to listening for particular sounds (such as wheezing) and attending to unusual body odor. Inquiring focuses on the "seven inquiries", which are: chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep; and menses and leukorrhea. Palpation includes feeling the body for tender "ashi" points, and palpation of the left and right radial pulses at two levels of pressure (superficial and deep) and three positions (immediately proximal to the wrist crease, and one and two fingers'''' breadth proximally, usually palpated with the index, middle and ring fingers). Other forms of acupuncture employ additional diagnostic techniques, such as ear diagnosis, finger nail diagnosis, foot diagnosis, etc. There are also theories being developed to explain effects observed for acupuncture within the orthodox Western medical paradigm.
Certain acupuncture points are ascribed different functions according to different systems within the TCM framework.
Five Shu (Five Transporting) Points system describes the flow of Qi in the channels using a river analogy, and ascribes function to points along this flow line according to their location. This system describes Qi bubbling up from a spring and gradually growing in depth and breadth like a river flowing down from a mountain to the sea:
Jing (Well) points represent the place where the Qi "bubbles" up. These points are always the first points on the yang channels or last points on the yin channels and with exception of K-1 Yong Quan, all points are located on the tips of fingers and toes. The Nan Jing and Nei Jing described jing (well) points as indicated for "fullness below the heart" (feeling of fullness in the epigastric or hypochondrium regions) and disorders of the zang organs (yang organs).
Ying (Spring) points are where the Qi "glides" down the channel. The Nan Jing and Nei Jing described ying (spring) points as indicated for heat in the body and change in complexion.
Shu (Stream) points are where the Qi "pours" down the channel. Shu (stream) points are indicated for heaviness in the body and pain in the joints, and for intermittent diseases.
Jing (River) points are where the Qi "flows" down the channel. Jing (river) points are indicated for cough and dyspnoea, chills and fever, diseases manifesting as changes in voice, and for diseases of the sinews and bones.
He (Sea) points are where the Qi collects and begins to head deeper into the body. He (sea) points are indicated for counterflow Qi and diarrhea, and for disorders resulting from irregular eating and drinking.
Five Shu Points ascribe each of the five phases (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) to one of the Five Transporting points. On the yin channels, the jing (well) points are wood points, the ying (spring) points are fire, shu (stream) points are earth, jing (river) points are metal, he (sea) points are water points. On the yang channels, the jing (well) points are metal, ying (spring) are water, shu (stream) are wood, jing (river) points are fire and he (sea) points are earth points. These point categories are then implemented according to Five Phase theory in order to approach the treatment of disease.
Xi (Cleft) points are the point on the channel where the Qi and blood gather and plunge more deeply. These points are indicated in acute situations and for painful conditions.
Yuan (Source) points are points on the channel from where the yuan Qi can be accessed.
Luo (Connecting) points are located at the point on the channel where the luo meridian diverges. Each of the twelve meridians has a luo point that diverges from the main meridian. There are also three extra luo channels that diverge at Sp-21, Ren-15 and Du-1.
Back Shu points lie on the Para spinal muscles either side of the spine. Theory says that the Qi of each organ is transported to and from these points, and can be influenced by them.
Front Mu points are located in close proximity to the respective organ. They have a direct effect on the organ itself but not on the associated channel.
01 Hui (Meeting) points are a category of points that are considered to have a "special effect" on certain tissues and organs. The hui (meeting) points are:
Zang organs: Liv-13 Zhang Men
Fu organs: Ren-12 Zhong Wan
Qi: Ren-17 Tan Zhong
Blood: B-17 Ge Shu
Sinews: G-34 Yang Ling Quan
Vessels: L-9 Tai Yuan
Bone: B-11 Da Zhu
Marrow: G-39 Xuan Zhong
Although TCM is based on the treatment of "patterns of disharmony" rather than biomedical diagnoses, practitioners familiar with both systems have commented on relationships between the two. A given TCM pattern of disharmony may be reflected in a certain range of biomedical diagnoses: thus, the pattern called Deficiency of Spleen Qi could manifest as chronic fatigue, diarrhea or uterine prolapsed. Likewise, a population of patients with a given biomedical diagnosis may have varying TCM patterns. These observations are encapsulated in the TCM aphorism "One disease, many patterns; one pattern, many diseases". Acupuncture has been used to treat a number of conditions. Classically, in clinical practice, acupuncture treatment is typically highly-individualized and based on philosophical constructs, and subjective and intuitive impressions" and not necessarily always on controlled scientific research.
Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes that true healing is a multidimensional process. This ancient holistic medical system, in continuous practice for thousands of years, understands that the body, mind, spirit and emotions must all be addressed in the healing journey. The mind and the emotions, which are the actions of the mind, play a powerful role in creating wellness or illness, and attracting disease. All of these aspects and their relationships are mapped out in the theories that form the foundation of TCM: the Theory of Yin/Yang, the Theory of Qi (vital energy), Meridian Theory and the Five-Element Theory. It is important to understand that these concepts and principles are not the product or result of scientific or rational thinking. They are based on a perception and comprehension of natural law –– how this world and the universe really work at the level of energy; what the relationship between the world, the universe and the human beings and, how the surrounding environments affect human's body, mind, spirit and emotions. Over more than five thousand years, TCM has used these practice-base and time-tested theories to comprehend, diagnose and treat health conditions.
One of the principles of TCM is to identify and treat the root cause of conditions so that the healing is genuine and the condition does not recur. In reality, our body has many ways of signaling imbalances, including symptoms or discomforts which can lead to further biological changes if left untreated. In terms of treatment, TCM uses a variety of natural healing modalities to spark the individual'''s innate healing capacity. Acupuncture is one of the common practices that are used. With health imbalances, the self-healing ability can become dormant, but it responds to acupuncture treatment and becomes active once again. Another principle of TCM is to prevent. When the signs and signals occur, deal with them. Once the imbalance issues are recognized and properly handled, only then does the healing begin.