Acupuncture is a component of the health care system of Chinese Medicine that can be traced back over 2,500 years.
But although acupuncture has been around for thousands of years in the East, here in the West it is still growing in popularity and acceptance.
In the 1940’s, the Chinese government commissioned the development of a uniform system of diagnosis and treatment – calling it Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Until then, most of the training had been done “apprentice-style” with old doctors and within families.
Since the visit of US President Richard Nixon to China in 1972, there has been an increasing interest in the use of acupuncture and its integration within orthodox western medicine.
Since then, the use of acupuncture and TCM for the treatment of medical conditions has increased exponentially, with the World Health Organization in 2003 officially recognizing acupuncture as an effective form of treatment for a while range of medical conditions.
The theory of Chinese Medicine was developed on an observational basis – therefore completely different from the scientific approach of Western Medicine.
The focus was only on the individual and not the illness, taking the positive model of good health and function – looking at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance, i.e. the correct function of the body being disrupted.
According to TCM theory, this balance is achieved by correct flow of the Vital Substances: Qi (energy / life force), Xue (blood), Jing (vital essence / DNA building blocks), Shen (mind / consciousness), and Jin Ye (body fluids). Disruptions in any of these can be caused by emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury, etc.
What makes this ancient system of medicine so relevant and suited to modern life is that the physical, emotional and mental aspects are seen as interdependent – which reflects what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects of their lives.
With the help of modern diagnosing tools like MRI and fMRI, it is now possible to explain the effects of acupuncture from a scientific point of view – showing how the insertion of the fine, sterile needles in the acupuncture points has its effect over (mainly) the body’s nervous system to achieve a correct flow of the Vital Substances.
Also, recent medical research has shown that the use of acupuncture in certain points stimulates the release of endorphins – the body’s own natural painkillers and stress fighters.
For those interested in further reading about TCM, we recommend a great publication: Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, by Mr Xu XiangCai (2001)
“The Science of Acupuncture” follows Professor Kathy Sykes from Bristol University as she investigates how and why science is beginning to respond to centuries old remedies.