What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a complex branch of ancient Chinese medicine, but its practical principles and methods are easily understood:

  1. Fourteen major energy channels called meridians course through the human body including the head, arms, hands, legs, feet, torso, and internal organs.
  2. A subtle energy called Chi (pronounced chee) circulates via the meridians to all parts of the body, even the most remote cells.
  3. Chi is the vital force, the presence of which separates the living from the dead. Its balanced, unimpeded flow is critical to sound health.
  4. Any misdirection, blockage, or other derangement of the amount, flow, or balance of Chi may result in pain, dysfunction, and ill health.
  5. With acupuncture needles, or other means, the acupuncturist stimulates certain points (acupoints) along the course of the meridians. Such stimulation helps restore the normal balance and flow of chi so organs and bodily systems can work together in harmony as intended. This sets the stage for the body to repair itself and maintain its own health.

How old is Acupuncture?

The first formal record of acupuncture was compiled in China between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C., but that compilation is so extensive and complete it’s obvious acupuncture had been practiced long before that time.
Based on recent archaeological discoveries, scholars now believe acupuncture in a rudimentary form may date back 5,000, even 7,000 years. It’s probably safe to say that acupuncture has been a healing method to some degree at least that long.

The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, “needle”, and pungere, “to prick”. In Standard Mandarin, 針砭 (zhēn biān) (a related word, 針灸 (zhēn jiǔ), refers to acupuncture together with moxibustion).

There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians. Modern acupuncture texts present them as ideas that are useful in clinical practice. According to the NIH consensus statement on acupuncture, these traditional Chinese medical concepts “are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information but continue to play an important role in the evaluation of patients and the formulation of treatment in acupuncture.”

The earliest written record that is available about acupuncture is Huangdi Neijing ( Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), which suggests acupuncture originated in China and would explain why it is most commonly associated with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Different types of acupuncture (Classical Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Korean acupuncture) are practiced and taught throughout the world.