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A Very Brief History of Acupuncture

And for today's post - a little history lesson for our readers!

Although the history of acupuncture can be definitively traced back to China, there are conflicting theories on exactly how long acupuncture has been practiced - it dates back many centuries and may go 3,000 to 5,000 years, or even earlier!

Just as it is unclear how long acupuncture has been practiced, it is equally unclear how it originated.  One potential explanation is that some soldiers had been wounded in a battle by arrows and acupuncture was able to successfully heal the wounds and cure chronic afflictions that were otherwise untreated.  As with any information that is passed through generations, there are numerous variations on this story.

There is also some evidence that the use of sharpened stones (instead of needles) may have been the origin of what later became acupuncture.  For those of you who are a little bit needle sensitive, can you imagine using a stone?!  The relaxation side effect of the medicine was probably not enjoyed at that time!  After stones came needles from bone, then metal needles in the 2nd century BC.

The earliest Chinese medical text to document the the history and practice of acupuncture is the Classic of Internal Medicine which was compiled around 305-204 BC.
The practice of acupuncture spread throughout Asia and in 1023 a bronze statue was produced that depicted the meridians and acupuncture points that were in use at the time.

Subsequently, however, acupuncture became less prestigious and became to be associated with the practice of shamanism.  By the mid 1750s, acupuncture had become a lost art.  Its decline was attributed, in part, to the popularity of medications and prescriptions, as well as its association with the lower classes.

In 1822, the Chinese Emperor announced that the practice and teaching of acupuncture be banned within the Imperial Academy of Medicine.  It had been declared as being unfit for gentlemen-scholars to practice.  The ban was lifted in 1950 by Chairman Mao when he officially united Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western Medicine. At this time, acupuncture became established in many hospitals.

The practice of acupuncture gained the attention of the North American population when President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972 and observed patients receiving acupuncture treatments.  A New York Times reporter (James Reston) who had accompanied Nixon on his trip to China underwent acupuncture himself for post-operative pain following an emergency appendectomy.  He was so impressed with the relief from pain that he experienced that he wrote about it in the New York Time.  And in 1973, the American Internal Revenue Service began to allow acupuncture to be deducted as a medical expense.

In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) formally recognized acupuncture as a mainstream medicine healing option with a statement documenting the procedure' s safety and efficacy for treating a range of health conditions.  

There are now hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture.  Most of these studies were performed in China, but more and more are being conducted in the US.  As you know from getting acupuncture or reading our blog, acupuncture has been used successfully in the treatment of conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, and others), nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, and insomnia.

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