Essential Acupuncture Facts: An Ancient Art 2500 Years in the Making
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique where fine needles are inserted in the body at certain specific points called acupoints which are capable of treating various physical and mental ailments. Here are the essential facts everyone needs to know:
Origin and History
1. The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, “needle” and pungere, “to prick.”
2. Acupuncture is at least 2,500 years in the making (and by some reports may be well over 5,000 years old); it is one of the oldest practicing forms of medicine known to date. According to legend, the art was discovered when Chinese warriors found that arrows striking them at certain points in the body healed them of chronic conditions.
3. Originally acupuncture needles were made of stone, bamboo and bone rather. Todayʼs stainless steel needles are extremely fine in diameter (about the thickness of two human hairs) and are sterile, single-use, pre-packaged, and disposable.
4. Acupuncture is just one part of a broad system of Traditional Chinese Medicine that also includes Chinese Herbal Medicine, Tui Na (massage), Tai Chi/Qi Gong (movement) and Chinese Dietary Therapy.
5. There are many styles and substyles within the practice of acupuncture. This may seem odd but Chinese Medicine has evolved over thousands of years and over vast geographical areas which has subjected it to many different cultural, political and scientific influences. In the United States the most common styles of practice are Five Element Traditional Acupuncture, TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture, Japanese Acupuncture and Korean Consitutional Acupuncture – all of which are based in traditional principles of Chinese Medicine.
6. Licensed acupuncturists attend a rigorous 3-4 year graduate program and complete over 2,000+ clinical internship hours and maintain their licensure with continuing education. Part of our education includes standard medical history gathering, safety, ethics and recognition of when to refer patients to other health care professionals.
7. When performed by a properly trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is safe and effective, free from negative side effects.
8. Acupuncture needles are a lot smaller than standard hypodermic needles, and they do not draw blood and are not hollow. In fact, over 20 acupuncture needles can be placed inside a single medical syringe.
9. Even though a needle is being inserted into the skin, acupuncture is virtually painless.
10. Acupuncturists feel your pulse and look at your tongue to gain information about your state of health and to plan a course of treatment.
11. Acupuncture is highly individualized – for example, if 50 people with the common cold received acupuncture all 50 people could have different acupuncture points chosen as part of their treatment.
12. Studies have shown that acupuncture points have significantly more electrical conductivity than areas of skin without acupuncture points. Since the early days of arrows in random places, the art has acquired a level of finesse and experts claim to have identified over 1000-2000 acupoints throughout the body. Of these, acupuncture therapists therapists have identified 8-18 points for treatment.
13. Ear acupuncture believes that the ear is the prototype of the fetus and has all the body parts represented in it, head acupuncture treats all the body parts by inserting needles in the scalp and laser acupuncture practitioners use a laser beam instead of needles.
14. Another mixed alternative therapy is Homoeopuncture which puts homeopathic medicine on the tip of the needles.
15. The World Health Organization released a report entitled Acupuncture:Review of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, which endorses the use of acupuncture for over 200 symptoms and diseases (low back pain, headache, nausea/vomiting, allergic rhinitis, depression/anxiety, side effects of chemotherapy and induction of labor to name a few) and the US National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement proposing acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention for complementary medicine.
16. The U.S. FDA classified acupuncture needles as medical instrument and assured their safety and effectiveness.
17. Acupuncture gained popular attention in the U.S. after President Nixonʼs visit to China in 1972 when an accompanying reporter experienced significant post-operative pain relief after undergoing an emergency appendectomy and wrote about the benefits of acupuncture upon his return to the U.S.
18. Acupuncture is quite popular in the West and about a million Americans use it. In the UK, around 47% of practitioners refer their patients to acupuncturists.
19. Acupuncture also became popular in our modern times through a practice called Sujok, a branch of acupuncture which believes that the hand and feet represent a mirror image of the body. The thumb and the big toe stand for the head, the two middle fingers for the legs and the two extreme fingers for the arms while the palms and feet stand for the body. Stimulating points in the hands and feet will heal the corresponding body parts. It uses fewer and smaller needles and has proven more popular than Chinese acupuncture.
20. As of 2004 nearly 50% of Americans who were enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatment. (Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture on the Rise, Michael Devitt, Acupuncture Today, January 2005, Vol 6). You may be covered for acupuncture treatments too!
21. Despite its many health benefits, acupuncture shouldn’t be used as an alternative to medical treatments especially during an emergency. It cannot help during accidents, cardiac problems, epidemics, against infectious diseases, etc.
22. Research shows that acupuncture is beneficial in treating a variety of health conditions. Chinese acupuncture has been reported to have positive outcomes for hundreds of acute and chronic illness/injuries of the musculoskeletal, endocrine, neurological and gynecological systems. It has been extensively linked to mental and physical wellness.
23. Acupuncture has been reported to increase the success rate of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) up to 65%.
24. The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure when using Western research because this depends on a constant variable to measure all data against…something that goes against the fabric of acupuncture treatment plans. Science has tried hard to explain exactly how acupuncture works and has zeroed in on two different theories. One believes that that the needle sends impulses that travel faster than the pain impulses, thereby blocking them. Another theory is that it releases endorphins into the bloodstream that alleviates pain.
25. One of acupuncture’s most spectacular by-products is its anaesthetic effect. It’s very effective in managing pain and it does so without any side effects that come with normal painkillers like addiction. In fact, it is widely used as anaesthesia in China and the West as well.
As originally reported by:
About the Author
Tammy Lalonde is the Owner and Licensed Acupuncturist at Red Leaf Wellness in Edmonton, Alberta with expertise in female and maternal health matters. She is also a Critical Care Paramedic and has taken a lead role in treating many prehospital reproductive emergencies. Tammy earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Oriental Medicine from California’s prestigious South Baylo University and her diploma in Emergency Medical Technology (Paramedicine) from Augustana University. She is presently working toward a Fellowship with the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine.