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Acupuncture: A Crash Course in Tiny Needles

Posted on Feb 17, 2016 3:16:23 PM by healtheo360

What is Acupuncture?

A form of alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine involving the insertion of thin needles into the body at certain points. It has been practiced for centuries and was originally explained as a way to balance the flow of energy or life force (qi or chi), which is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in the human body. However, many Western practitioners have come to view acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. Some believe this stimulation inhibits pain signals and increases blood flow.


The History of Acupuncture

The ancient practice is believed to have originated around 100 BC in China, around the time The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) was published, though some experts suggest it could have occurred earlier. It continued to be developed and codified in texts over the following centuries and slowly became one of the standard therapies used in China in addition to herbs , massage, diet, and heat. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was published, which forms the basis of modern acupuncture. Interest in the procedure among the Chinese waned beginning in the seventeenth century as it came to be regarded as superstitious and irrational. As China began to accept Western medicine at the start of the twentieth century, acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine were finally banned in 1929. However, the installation of the Communist government in 1949 brought about reinstatement of traditional forms of medicine including acupuncture. The efficacy of the ancient practice has been challenged in the West. The concepts of Qi flowing in meridians have been replaced by many practitioners with a neurological model based on evidence that the thin needles stimulate nerve endings and alter brain function. There is evidence to suggest that the practice works to suppress symptoms of certain conditions, but we simply do not yet know why.


What Does Acupuncture Treat?

It is used to relieve pain and treat certain health conditions. There is promising evidence from studies that suggest the effective use of acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy, chemotherapy, and post surgery pain. It may also be used to treat the following disorders: stroke, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, drug/alcohol withdrawal, dental pain, and labor pain.


Mayo Clinic
The Atlantic
Oxford Journals

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