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History of Acupuncture

Updated: Aug 13, 2022

Acupuncture has been one of the core principles of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is still in use today. The basic tenets of acupuncture are that a life force, known as qi, flows throughout the human body. When this life force gets disrupted, depleted, or blocked, this can result in the body becoming unbalanced which can lead to pain or illness. Acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine is thought to help the qi to flow properly around the body again, restoring balance and health.

History of acupuncture

The earliest evidence we have of acupuncture are sharpened stones and long sharp bones being found from around 6,000 BCE. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine was written in 100 BCE and is a compilation of traditions that had been passed on for centuries. At this point in time, the principles of there being meridian points for qi throughout the body had been established, but there was no framework yet for the precise anatomical locations. It wasn't until The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, written in the Ming Dynasty, that the 365 meridian points were laid out. It is this text that forms the basis of modern acupuncture.

Acupuncture fell out of favor in the 17th century, when it was seen as superstitious. It was excluded from the Imperial Medical Institute in the early 19th century and finally outlawed completely in 1929. The practice wasn't lost entirely, however. The knowledge was preserved by academics and those interested in traditional medicine and, in 1949 with the advent of the communist government, acupuncture was officially reinstated. It formed one of the core elements of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that was encouraged and standardized at that time.

Since then, TCM and acupuncture have become firmly established as part of standard medical care in China. There are specific hospitals that are used to deliver these types of treatments and they are funded and supported by the government. Alongside this standardization, more scientific explanations for the effects of acupuncture have been sought and there are research centers dedicated to researching TCM.

Acupuncture is now recognized by the World Health Organisation as being an effective treatment for a wide variety of illnesses including, but not limited to, migraines, tension headaches, lower back pain, neck pain, facial pain, and dental pain. The research behind the modern uses of acupuncture has found that it appears to work in a couple of different ways. First, the needles are thought to disrupt pain signals to the brain. Second, the tiny amount of damage that occurs when a needle is inserted triggers the release of the body's natural painkillers, endorphins, which reduce pain and boost feelings of wellness.

Acupuncture has been used by its practitioners for thousands of years to treat a broad range of ailments. While it has been dismissed at certain points in history as being irrational, it is a core part of traditional Chinese medicine and there is growing evidence that it is an effective treatment due to its painkilling effects.

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Learn about the Benefits of Acupuncture

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