Acupuncture is the medical practice of inserting needles into specific acupoints for the purpose of treating disease. Acupuncture is part of a larger body of eastern health care that includes herbal pharmacy, moxibustion, electrostimulation, massage, fitness exercises including Tai Qi and Qi Gong, meditation, and dietary habits. Each of these features of eastern health care can be employed in both the treatment and prevention of disease. The intentional combining of these eastern health care strategies is designed to promote and maintain healthy development.
The first written record of acupuncture comes from 3000-year-old Shang Dynasty hieroglyphic inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells in China. It is commonly believed that development of this medicine in China existed in the Stone Age more than 10,000 years ago. Acupuncture and other medical practices developed in China and spread to Japan, Korea, Vietnam, other Asian countries, and eventually Europe and the Americas. Today, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are successfully employed worldwide in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of diseases.
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Acupoints can be found on defined meridian pathways in the body. Twelve of these meridians are connected to 12 individual bodily organs. Eight other meridians run defined paths vertically on the front and back midlines and horizontally at the girdle in five other trajectories that do not connect to a particular organ. Through these pathways run currents of energy, referred to as Qi in Asian medicine, which well up at particular points along the meridian. The acupuncturist can press or massage, heat, charge, needle, or otherwise stimulate a point, which then affects the meridian and organ or region targeted. A needle placed between the second and third lumbar vertebrae for specific acute lumbago (low back pain) is an example of treatment of a particular point. Using leg points on the stomach meridian for rehabilitation after knee surgery is an example of treating the meridian. Needling stomach meridian points and adding moxibustion (heat therapy) for indigestion and stomachache is an example of treating the associated organ. All are treated by using acupoints found on meridian pathways running through our bodies.
Acupuncture and Asian medicine have historically been used to treat disorders of the day and the place. In the Warring States period in China, the medicine was crafted to address trauma. In the North of China, cold-induced disorders were addressed, whereas in the South, feverish diseases were treated. As time passed, the medicine was adapted to treat such modern issues as radiation sickness and related cancer in post–World War II Japan, and more recently AIDS, hepatitis, and modern viral plagues worldwide. The 21st century has been called the Age of Shen—spirit disorders such as depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
In Asia, traditional Chinese and modern allopathic medicines are routinely combined in hospitals and clinics. This is the future of medicine in the Western world as Asian medicine moves from “alternative to complementary to integrative” status in our prevention and treatment of disease in all of its manifestations.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative (2004, December). Acupuncture. Retrieved from http:// nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/