A Little History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture has a rich history beginning more than 2,000 years ago. Since Chinese is one of the oldest written languages, we are lucky to have practical clinical knowledge and experience passed through classic written works. There are hundreds of old texts which provide a wealth of information and we cannot cover them all here. However, a short history of some of the most influential works can be very interesting.
The Huang Di Nei Jing (the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor), written around 90 BC was one of the first detailed texts mentioning acupuncture to treat disease. At the time of these writings, acupuncture had already matured into a special branch of Chinese medicine. 295 acupuncture point names, locations, and methods of needle manipulation were described. Although acupuncture had been written in medical texts prior to this one, the Inner Classic, was the first time in the history of Chinese Medicine, to lay down a systematic and thorough description of acupuncture theory, points, medical diagnosis, anatomy, and basic physiological principles.
The Zhenjiu Jiayi Jing (A Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) compiled by Huangfu Mi between 259 and 260 AD was the first book to be completely devoted to the study of acupuncture as a medical specialty. This book included a total of 349 acupuncture points and described their locations and indications for use.
The Tong Ren Shu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu Jing (Illustrated Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Points as Demonstrated on the Bronze Figure) was written around 1000 AD by court physician, Wang Weiyi, and discussed 359 acupuncture points arranged on the human body. He had life size bronze statues made with all of the acupuncture points drilled out. The statue was filled with water and coated with wax so that when a student needled the proper location of one of the points, water would leak out.
The preface of the book, Shenying Jing, written in 1425, speaks highly of the use of acupuncture for treating illness:
“Since time immemorial, when medicines were not available, only stone needles and moxibustion could be used to relieve the people, and these were really the great way of medicine… I think although there are many kinds of good medicines, there is no quicker way for the treatment of diseases than acupuncture. Medicines treat disease by their nature and taste and their effect of smoothing the Channels and Collaterals progresses slowly, while acupuncture can promote the circulation of the blood and Channels in a quicker way… When one has contracted a minor illness in the night or during a journey when medicines are not available, acupuncture and moxibustion can be the only methods to meet an urgent need. This must not be ignored by the intelligentsia of this world who want to relieve life.”
Over time, acupuncture spread to Japan, Korea, and other countries surrounding China. The Jesuits were the first to write of acupuncture in the West. In fact, the word acupuncture comes from the Latin words for needle (acus) and puncture (punctura). Father Harvieu, in 1671, published the book Les secrets de la Medicine des Chinois (Secrets of Chinese Medicine) after returning to France from China. It was then written about in Europe in 1810 at the Paris Medical School and in 1823 acupuncture was written about in the famous British medical journal, The Lancet.
It’s strange to note that a year before this, in 1822, for no clear reason, the Emperor Dau Guang of China, banned the use of acupuncture for the court and the Imperial Medical Academy. Acupuncture was still practiced in the country, but not in the Imperial court. It wasn’t until the 1950s that acupuncture was once again encouraged by the government to be studied. A major revitalization occurred and the integration of Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine began. Currently, there are many hospitals in China that provide acupuncture and herbal medicine, side by side with standard Western medicine.
Acupuncture was brought to the United States with many of the Chinese immigrants that moved there. In fact, there are some fascinating historical accounts of Chinese medicine being practiced in small towns in the West where the railroads were being built. However, it wasn’t until 1971, when a New York Times reporter visited China to report on Henry Kissinger’s trip there and ended up having to have an emergency appendectomy. Following surgery he was given acupuncture to help with the pain he was experiencing. He wrote an article about this and word spread about the positive effects of acupuncture throughout America.
There were several brave and amazing acupuncturists during the 1970s in the United States when acupuncture was not yet a regulated medical practice. Miriam Lee was one of these pioneers. Trained as an acupuncturist in China, she later moved to California. Her acupuncture practice boomed while in America, and she treated 75 to 80 patients a day. She was eventually arrested for practicing medicine without a license. Patients flooded the courtroom to protest her arrest and fight for their right to be treated by acupuncture. This led to California legalizing the practice of acupuncture in 1976.
Since then, the number of acupuncturists has steadily grown and acupuncture has become much more common in the United States. In 1996, the FDA changed the status of acupuncture needles from Class III to Class II medical devices. This means they are now regarded as safe and effective when used by licensed practitioners.
In 2004, it has been estimated that 50% of Americans enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatments. This number is on the rise. The Department of Veteran Affairs now commonly refers patients to receive acupuncture for pain relief. Kaiser Permanente hospitals often employ acupuncturists to treat their patients they feel would benefit from acupuncture. Well respected hospitals throughout the country are now offering acupuncture as part of a new integrative, holistic, healthcare model.
Is there only one style of acupuncture?
No. It’s a common error that many people believe acupuncture is one style of treatment. In fact, there are many different schools of thought and family/master traditions that have evolved over the years. Some of the styles are: TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Scalp Acupuncture, Auriculotherapy, Master Tung Style, Dr. Tan’s Balance Method, Kiiko Matsumoto’s Style, Dr Frank He’s Muscle Channel Technique, Trigger Point Acupuncture, and Motor Point Acupuncture. These are all techniques that are utilized in my clinic. The technique that is most needed to benefit the individual patient is utilized.
How does acupuncture work?
Scientific research has discovered that acupuncture points show a variety of unique bioelectric properties. Stimulation of acupuncture points cause definite physiological reactions affecting brain activity, such as releasing pain killing endorphins, influencing blood pressure, enhancing the immune system, balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and enhancing the endocrine system. Acupuncture needles placed in the correct locations can also release trigger points in the body that are causing a painful referral pattern. Motor points can be needled to stimulate the proper functionality of the muscle fibers.
Our acupuncture services are rendered based on a TCM medical diagnosis that includes an assessment of pulse quality, shape and color of the tongue, medical history and whole body evaluation. Following the diagnosis, acupuncture points are chosen on the body along acupuncture meridians, or pathways. Needle stimulation of these points increases the body’s ability to heal.
Qi (pronounced “chee”) is based on the on the ancient Chinese theory of the flow of energy. Qi and blood flow through distinct meridians or pathways that cover and fill the body, somewhat like the nerves and blood vessels. Open meridians are essential for optimal health.
Qi circulates throughout the body within the meridians, which also are related to the internal organs. Qi surfaces to the skin level at specific points. Good health depends on the smooth flow of qi. When the flow of qi is blocked due to trauma, poor diet, stress, hereditary conditions, environmental factors or excessive emotional issues, the system is disrupted. Illness is then generated. In accordance with ancient theory, acupuncture allows qi to flow to areas where it is deficient and away from areas where it is in excess. In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores a harmonious energetic balance in the body. There is a Chinese saying, “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.”
Does acupuncture hurt?
At the time the needle is inserted, some may feel soreness or slight pain, similar to an ant bite. Others may feel nothing. Common qi sensations around the needles include: tingling, electrical sensations which may travel above or below the needle, or a sense of swelling at the insertion site. Stimulation of needles can be done manually, or by attaching electrodes that transmit a weak current.
Some people are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. If you experience discomfort during or after the treatment, it is usually mild and short term. Because the purpose of acupuncture is to balance your body, there are no long term negative side effects. On the contrary, relaxation and a sense of well-being often occurs during and after treatment. Often patients become so relaxed that they sleep during treatment.
All the needles used are pre-sterilized, non-toxic and disposable. Communication of disease through acupuncture has not been an issue in the U.S., a record few other health care professions can claim.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires manufacturers of acupuncture needles to label them for single use only. Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA when considering the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used.
We are pleased to serve the acupuncture and related needs of those living in Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, and other cities and areas in Sonoma County.