The first record of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture is found in the 4,700 year old Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine). This is said to be the oldest medical textbook in existence.
It is said to have been written down from even earlier theories by Shen Nong, the father of Chinese Medicine. Shen Nong documented theories about circulation, pulse, and the heart over 4,000 years before European medicine had any concept about them. As the basis of Acupuncture, Shen Nong theorized that the body had an energy force running throughout it. This energy force is known as “Qi”. The Qi consists of all essential life activities which include the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects of life. Qi is energy; vitality. We see it in plants, in nature; it is life. A person’s health is influenced by the flow of Qi in the body, as well as with the universal forces of Yin and Yang. If the flow of Qi is insufficient, unbalanced, interrupted or blocked, the Yin and Yang become out of balance and illness, trauma, and dysfunction occur.
Qi travels throughout the body along specific pathways, called “Meridians” or “Channels”. There are 12 Primary Meridians corresponding to the 12 organs of the body, and 8 Extraordinary Meridians that provide the overall structure of the body. The Extraordinary Meridians are deep reservoirs within the human body that become active during times of transformation and change. They also provide the foundation of the musculoskeletal structure, and can be used to treat such disorders. The Extraordinary Vessels therefore can be utilized during times of stress, trauma and injury, as well as for affecting the deepest levels of the individual such as the reproductive system and the internal organ systems.
Acupuncture points are specific locations along the meridians where the Qi is most accessible. Techniques on these points, like acupuncture, moxibustion, acupressure (like shiatsu or tui na), and cupping can influence the Qi of the entire meridian that the acupuncture points influence. The connections between the points and the meridians ensure that there is an even circulation of Qi and a balance between Yin and Yang. Energy is constantly flowing in these pathways.
Lifestyle habits, environmental stressors, inappropriate emotions, and physical taxation can cause the meridians to become obstructed, deficient, excessive and unbalanced. This will cause disease and injury; the longer the imbalance the worse it can become. Chinese Medicine with it’s tools: Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Qi Gong, Acupressure, Cupping, Gua Sha, and more, can restore the balance. If the channels are flowing correctly and unobstructed, then the patient will be healthy.
Acupuncture is a technique where hair-thin, sterile, single-use disposable stainless steel needles are inserted at specific points in the body to correct various ailments and normalize the body’s physiological processes. The insertion of an acupuncture needle will communicate with the central and peripheral nervous systems causing the release of natural pain-killing substances and hormones as well as stimulating the heart and blood vessels to dilate, delivering oxygen-rich blood, vital nutrients and immune cells to the sick areas of the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine declares that there are as many as 2000 acupuncture points in total on the human body.
Acupuncture not only treats illness, but can also prevent disease and help build the immune system. It can help increase energy, preserve youth and promote longevity. Its actions are regulatory, encouraging the body to make natural changes from within. Acupuncture can treat acute and chronic conditions and can help in many situations where Western medicine may have limited solutions.
With variations in acupuncture theory and origin, there are many styles of acupuncture practiced around the world. In America, it is rare to find two acupuncturists who practice exactly alike. Acupuncture is a very safe practice, with no side effects.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine is a sophisticated treatment modality, used alone or in combination with acupuncture. Based on tongue, pulse, and an extensive intake, the practitioner will prescribe a custom formula for each individual patient. Formulas range from one to twenty herbs, and more than five hundred herbs are commonly used. Herbs are made up of mostly plant parts, flowers, roots, stems, and leaves, as well as minerals and non-endangered animals, today. Herbal medicine is given as pills, powders, alcohol tinctures, herbal packs or patches. It is incredibly effective for treating acute and chronic conditions with little to no side effects. The formulas target the underlying root of the problem as well as the branch and help change the environment of the body so the symptoms don’t reoccur.
Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction as a way of stimulating the flow of energy (Qi) and blood. There is retention cupping: to help pull toxins from the skin, eliminate pathogens, and stimulate acupuncture points. We also use sliding cupping: a stronger technique to reduce muscle tension; a bit like an inverse massage. Rather than applying pressure to muscles, the suction uses pressure to pull skin, fascia, tissue and muscle upward, helping to break up adhesive tissue and muscle fibers.
Tui Na is a form of Oriental bodywork that has been used in China for centuries. ‘Tui' meaning to push and 'Na' meaning to grasp. A combination of massage, acupressure, and other forms of body manipulation, tui na works by applying pressure to acupoints, meridians and groups of muscles or nerves to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of qi. Removing these blockages restores the balance of qi in the body, leading to improved health and vitality.
We also use Shiatsu, a form of Japanese manipulative therapy incorporating techniques of anma (Japanese traditional massage), acupressure, stretching and Western massage styles.
Moxibustion, or Moxa, is an Oriental Medicine technique that involves the burning of Artemisia Vulgaris (or mugwort; a small spongy herb) to facilitate healing. Moxa has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. In fact, the Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally means: "acupuncture-moxibustion". The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese Medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of Qi, and maintain general health. It is used on top of needles (pictured below) or directly on the skin.
Using a jade stone, spoon, plastic or stainless steal tool, the skin is scraped to improve blood circulation, release various pathogens from the body, and reduce pain. Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, and pain both acute and chronic. It is also used to detoxify the body and reduce fever as the scraping brings the excess heat and toxins to the surface of the body to be released. Gua Sha is the precursor to the modern Graston technique, and is effective for decreasing pain due to excessively tight muscles and helps improve range of motion.
The color that comes up is called “Sha” and is both diagnostic and prognostic. If the Sha is very light in color it indicates deficiency of blood, either systemically or in that specific region. If the Sha is a fresh bright red, it means that the condition is acute and has not yet penetrated deep into the body. If the Sha is black or purple, it indicates poor blood circulation and stagnation, and is common in long standing conditions. Dark red Sha indicates heat. Overall, the Sha is a good reflection of needed detoxification, stagnation and the release of heat.
In June 1979, the World Health Organization conducted a symposium on acupuncture in Beijing, China. Doctors who participated in the symposium created a list of 43 diseases that might benefit from acupuncture. This list however was not based on well design clinical trials with appropriate control. The need for performing such studies was mentioned.
Almost twenty years later, in 1997, National Institutes of Health published a Consensus Statement, summarizing the state of knowledge drawn from clinical trial concerning acupuncture efficacy. The authors concluded that there were “promising results showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain” In other conditions, mostly various kinds of pain, acupuncture “might be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative”.
One year before publication of statement mentioned above, the meeting of scientists, called WHO Consultation on Acupuncture, was organized in the beautiful Italian town of Cervia. That meeting resulted in the creation of an official report on the effectiveness of acupuncture based on data from controlled clinical trials. The report was finally published in 2003. The results of 255 trials published before the end of 1998 or beginning of 1999 are summarized below.
1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved – through controlled trials—to be an effective treatment:
• Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
• Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
• Biliary colic
• Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
• Dysentery, acute bacillary
• Dysmenorrhoea, primary
• Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
• Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
• Hypertension, essential
• Hypotension, primary
• Induction of labour
• Knee pain
• Low back pain
• Malposition of fetus, correction of
• Morning sickness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Neck pain
• Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
• Periarthritis of shoulder
• Postoperative pain
• Renal colic
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Tennis elbow
2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:
• Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
• Acne vulgaris
• Alcohol dependence and detoxification
• Bell’s palsy
• Bronchial asthma
• Cancer pain
• Cardiac neurosis
• Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
• Competition stress syndrome
• Craniocerebral injury, closed
• Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
• Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
• Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
• Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
• Female infertility
• Facial spasm
• Female urethral syndrome
• Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
• Gastrokinetic disturbance
• Gouty arthritis
• Hepatitis B virus carrier status
• Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
• Labour pain
• Lactation, deficiency
• Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
• Ménière disease
• Neuralgia, post-herpetic
• Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
• Pain due to endoscopic examination
• Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
• Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)
• Postextubation in children
• Postoperative convalescence
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Prostatitis, chronic
• Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
• Raynaud syndrome, primary
• Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
• Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
• Retention of urine, traumatic
• Sialism, drug-induced
• Sjögren syndrome
• Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
• Spine pain, acute
• Stiff neck
• Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
• Tietze syndrome
• Tobacco dependence
• Tourette syndrome
• Ulcerative colitis, chronic
• Vascular dementia
• Whooping cough (pertussis)
3. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:
• Choroidopathy, central serous
• Colour blindness
• Irritable colon syndrome
• Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
• Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
• Small airway obstruction
4. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment:
• Breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
• Convulsions in infants
• Coronary heart disease (angina pectoris)
• Diarrhea in infants and young children
• Encephalitis, viral, in children, late stage
• Paralysis, progressive bulbar and pseudobulbar
The described report is the only official WHO opinion about the effectiveness of acupuncture. Nevertheless, the level of evidence existing in 1998 was not high. The authors included findings from Chinese trials which were not evaluated as highly reliable. For that reason the report and acupuncture itself was criticized by many scholars.
The authors of the first WHO report will be remembered forever as brave scientists who dared to prepare a wide review of evidence-based data concerning the method which was not thought of as “scientific”. Their work was literally groundbreaking and began a revolution in the perception of acupuncture. The amount of well-designed, published randomized controlled trials on acupuncture started growing rapidly soon after 2003. During the last fifteen years the results of many Randomly Controlled Trials were published, as well as meta-analysis of the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of various diseases. Existing level of evidence today is much higher than in 1999.
For a closer look at the WHO Acupuncture Research, click here