The History of Acupuncture

If you ask most people, they will say that acupuncture started in China. This is because it was mentioned first in the documents that dated from the centuries that lead up to what’s known as the historical Common Era. Bones and stones that were sharpened that date back to approximately 6000BCE were interpreted as instruments that were used for acupuncture.

However, it’s possible that they were used for surgery for lancing abscesses or drawing blood. Documents that were found inside one of the Ma-Wang-Dui tombs in China, sealed back in 198 BCE, don’t contain any references to the practice of acupuncture as we know it. However, they do talk about a meridian system, although it’s much different than the one that was later accepted.

There is speculation that surrounds around the Ice Man’s tattoo marks, who died back in 3300BCE. His body was revealed due to the melting of an Alpine glacier. These particular tattoos could indicate that there was a stimulatory treatment that was similar to the acupuncture was created outside of China.

The first paper that described the system that involved diagnosing and treating that we know as acupuncture is the well-known document known as The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. This dates back from approximately 100 BCE. The information’s presented by the reigning Emperor in question form and includes the Chhi-Po, his minister’s, learned replies.

This text likely is a compilation of the traditions that were handed down over the centuries, and it’s presented in the terms of the Taoist philosophy. It’s still cited to support certain techniques for therapy. The concepts when it comes to channels (conduits or meridians) inside which the life force or vital energy (Qi) flow are by now well established, even though the locations that are used for acupuncture points don’t develop until later.

Acupuncture continued being developed as well as codified as time went on and as such gradually became one of China’s standard therapies, along with massage, diet, moxibustion (heat), and herbs. A lot of assorted esoteric theories regarding diagnosis as well as treatment came out, which were sometimes contradictory. This may have happened as the schools that were competing tried to establish their individual influence and exclusivity.

There are 15th century bronze statues that are showing the acupuncture points on the body which are used today, and they were used for examination and teaching purposes. Throughout the years of the Ming Dynasty, from 1368 to 1644 saw the publication of the The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. This is what forms modern acupuncture’s modern basis. This contains clear descriptions of all of the points which represent the openings to those channels in which the needles can be inserted so that the Qi energy’s flow is modified. China’s knowledge regarding disease and health was developed purely through observing living subjects, since dissection wasn’t allowed and anatomy didn’t exist.

China’s acupuncture interest declined from back in the 17th century and going forwards since it was thought to be irrational and superstitious. The Imperial Medial Institute excluded it by the Emperor’s decree in the year 1822. The skill and knowledge stayed, however, either as academic interest or to use every day by the rural healers. With the increasing acceptance in China of the medical practices of the west in the early 1900s, acupuncture’s final ignominy arrived back in 1929 when it became outlawed, along with the other traditional forms of medicine.

After the Communist government’s installment in 1949, the more traditional medicine forms, including the practice of acupuncture, were reinstated. This could have been for nationalistic motives, however, also because they were the sole practical way of providing even the most basic health levels to the enormous population. The different acupuncture strands came together to form traditional Chinese medicine, which included herbal medicine as well.

Research institutes for acupuncture were established in China during the 1950s and the treatment became available inside the separate Western-style hospital departments. During this same period, there was an explanation of acupuncture that is much more scientific searched for by Professor Han, from Beijing. He did some groundbreaking research on the release of the neurotransmitters by acupuncture, particularly the opioid peptides.

Acupuncture spread to various other countries during different time periods and through various routes. During the 6th century, Japan and Korea assimilated Chinese herbs and acupuncture into their own medical systems. Both of these countries retain these types of therapies to this day, mostly along with the western medicine. Vietnam also adopted acupuncture when the commercial routes were opened during the 8th and 9th centuries.

France adopted the practice of acupuncture much sooner than other countries. The Jesuit missionaries reported acupuncture during the 1500s and French clinicians embraced it rather widely. Berlioz, the composer’s father, ran acupuncture clinical trials and then wrote about it in 1816. Today, French acupuncture has been influenced deeply by Souliet du Morant, a diplomat, who spent a lot of years in China, along with publishing a variety of acupuncture treatises from 1939 and on.

Ten Rhijne wrote acupuncture’s initial medical description in approximately 1680, who was an employee of the East India Company as well as a witness to acupuncture in Japan. Then, during the first half of the 1800s, there was a lot of interest in Britain and America and a lot of publications came out in the scientific literature. This included an editorial article in Lancet titled ‘Acupuncturation’.

By the middle of the century, acupuncture’s reputation had fallen and there wasn’t much interest, even though it was resurrected briefly in an edition of the Osler textbook where he described the dramatic success there has been with treating back pain using hat-pins. What’s interesting is the comment has been deleted from other issues.

In the year 1971, a US press corps member received acupuncture during recovery from having their appendix removed while in China, where he was visiting to prepare for a visit from President Nixon. His description of the practice made US physician teams to make fact-finding China tours to assess the practice.

The West has challenged acupuncture’s traditional theories, most notably by the United States’ Ulett and the UK’s Mann. The ancient concepts regarding the flow of Qi flowing in the meridians were displaced inside many neurological model practitioners’ minds, based on the evidence shown that the acupuncture needles will alter the functions of the brain and stimulate the nerve endings, particularly when it comes to mechanisms for pain inhibitors.

There are many suggested acupuncture action mechanism, but there isn’t a lot of valid data regarding which of the mechanisms are going to be relevant to the clinical practices. Evidence showing clinical effectiveness also is elusive when it comes to a lot of conditions like chronic pain. But in the final decade of the 20th century, there was reliable evidence from systematic reviews provided regarding the value of acupuncture in treating back pain, headache, nausea, and dental pain.