What Is Acupuncture Used For?
The purpose of Acupuncture from Ancient China to our contemporary society
Before I begin this blog, I should tell our lovely clients and anyone who is reading it that I love everything about this topic! I love history and folk-lore, I love the gradual evolution of this therapeutic modality based on the cycles of nature and I love being able to share the story of how Acupuncture has developed, within the tranquil and harmonious environment at Absolute Therapy.
The origins of Acupuncture
Legend has it that, thousands of years ago, a Chinese soldier developed a stiff shoulder. Nobody could find a cause or relief the stiffness, so he learned to live with it. Eventually he went to the ancient battle. In the course of the fight he was hit in his leg with an arrow, and his shoulder miraculously improved. He survived from the battle and, when he got home, he described the phenomena to the village doctor. The next time this doctor saw somebody with a stiffness shoulder, he poked the patient in the leg with a thin arrow, and the shoulder improved.
It is said that this is how our system of acupuncture evolved thousands of years of people manipulating one part of the body and affecting change elsewhere in the body. This information was pass along through generations and was eventually recorded in approximately 100 BCE in the yellow Emperor’s classic of Internal Medicine. This document contains the first known description of the system of diagnosis and treatment that we recognize as acupuncture. Acupuncture has developed a lot since then, but this gives you an idea of how old this form of treatment is.
Over time, acupuncture and other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) fell out of favour in China. They were considered folk medicine and abandoned in favour of more modern western ideas. In fact, in 1929, acupuncture was outlawed. But when the communist party took over in the 1940s, TCM was revived. This may have been to create a renewed sense of history and nationalism, but it may also have been a practical way to provide some form of health care to the large population. Whatever the reasoning, acupuncture has flourished in China and is now a commonly used therapy.
Uses of Acupuncture Today
Interest in acupuncture in the US took off in 1971 when President Nixon visited China. One of the members of his press core needed an emergency appendectomy. Acupuncture was part of his post-operative pain management, and he as astounded by how well it worked. He came back to The States and wrote about his experience in The New York Times. The rest, as they say, is history.
Modern science is still evaluating acupuncture. In 2012, The Journal of the American Medical Association, published a meta study HERE looking at other studies that had evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture for painful conditions including shoulder pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache. What they found was that acupuncture performed better than no treatment or sham treatments for these specific ailments. The NIH has also issued a statement that acupuncture may be helpful for certain types of pain.
So we accept that acupuncture can be helpful. In the course of my clinical practice, Clients ask me constantly a same question which is why does Acupuncture work? The problem is that western people still do not understand how it works. In the theory of TCM, Acupuncture works by keeping Qi moving freely. Qi is an unfamiliar concept for people in the west. We sometimes refer to it as energy, but, ultimately, we can’t define, isolate, or measure it. So modern researchers are looking at things that we can conceptualize. Some research is focused on the limbic system, which could modulate how we experience the suffering associated with painful stimuli. Other research is looking at nerve endings and the affects of Acupuncture needles on these delicate fibres.
One of the most common arguments that I hear against the efficacy of acupuncture is the idea that it works in us because of a placebo effect; One of clients said one day:” Our brains are tricking us into thinking that we are improving. And I can see that. When I go to see you, I lie in a dimly-lit room. It is warm. There is music. And I generally fall asleep. One could postulate that I feel better after treatments because they serve as an oasis of calm in my otherwise hectic day. But I think that my patients provide a counterargument to this. As far as I know, lots of people are not susceptible to the placebo effect. So, the fact that my patients show improvement after treatment seems like a more reliable indicator of the potential of acupuncture than my own response.
I am a true believer in acupuncture. I have used it for many conditions in my Acupuncture career. Orthopaedic injuries and osteoarthritis are the most common indications, but I have also seen it work to great effect in such varied conditions neurologic problems, digestion issues, female health unbalance, anxiety and so on. I am constantly impressed with how acupuncture, particularly when combined with more conventional treatments, can dramatically improve the clinical outcome and quality of life for my patients.