Acupuncture was formed from the Latin words “Acus”, meaning Needles and “Punctus”, meaning Point. Thus Acupuncture can be referred as “Needle Point”.
Acupuncture is one of the Chinese methods of therapy that improve the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process which involves insertion of filiform needles on certain parts of the body called Acupoints to effect healing.
Acupuncture is also a collection of procedures which involves the stimulation of points on certain parts of the body using a variety of techniques, such as moxibustion, cupping and penetrating the skin with needles that are then manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.
The intent of Acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method, by which this is accomplished may seem strange and mysterious to many, but its efficacy has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated till today. The perspective from which an Acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on the concepts of what the Chinese call Qi (pronounced Chi) which means “vital energy,” or “Vital Force”.
Just as the Western Doctors monitors the blood, flowing through blood vessels and the messages travelling via the nervous system, the Acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this “vital energy” within its pathways, known as “meridians and channels”. The Acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these “meridians”.
Traditionally these areas or “acupoints” are stimulated by filiform needles, moxibustion and cupping. Today, many additional forms of stimulation have been incorporated which includes pressure, heat, manual massage, magnets, lasers and electronic acupuncture. The aim remains the same – regulate the “vital energy” so that the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself.
Acupuncture’s use for certain ailments and its effects on the nervous system, endocrine and immune systems, cardiovascular system, digestive system and reproductive system has been endorsed by the United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, and the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the oldest important branches of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has been in existence for many centuries. It is believed that the first detailed and written description of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment appears in a document known as Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), which was dated at about 100 BCE.
The actual date of Acupuncture practice cannot be ascertained but available records show it dated back to Thousands of years ago. It was discovered by the Chinese but the practice has been widely accepted across the globe. It was discovered that when a certain pressure was applied to a particular part of the body where there was pain, relieve always came.
Progressively, it was also discovered that sharp edge of stones were giving better relieve, and as time went on, Bamboo trees were discovered after which specialised filiform needles were discovered making the treatment easier and less painful. The first set of needles were very long and so, many people are scared of the treatment, but letter smaller needles as short as 0.5cm were introduced
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
Two very different theories exist as to how acupuncture works. According to Chinese philosophy, the body contains two opposing forces: Yin and Yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. Energy, called”qi” (pronounced “chi”), flows like rivers along specific pathways, called meridians, all over the body. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam, the disruption can lead to pain, lack of function, or illness.
One of the theories is the Gate Theory of Pain. This was introduced in 1965 and it explains that Acupuncture works through the nervous system to alleviate pain. The theory states that in the nervous system, there are nerves that both transmit and inhibit pain. These fibbers come together in the substantia gelatinosa of the spinal cord. The substantia gelatinosa then sends pain signals to the brain, depending on the amount of pain input.
Acupuncture helps in the treatment of pain by stimulating the pain inhibitory nerve fibbers, which lowers the pain input and therefore relieves the pain. This can explain the effectiveness of Acupuncture in long term and acute pain conditions. In the Western view, Acupuncture works by stimulating the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals called neurotransmitters and hormones. These chemicals dull pain, boost the immune system and regulate various body functions.
Some theories suggest that Acupuncture causes the release of Endorphins in the body. Endorphins are Morphine-like, natural pain relievers found in the Central Nervous System (CNS). By stimulating Acupoints, a message is sent to the CNS for the release of Endorphins via the Vital Force to ease out pains.
When performed by a properly trained and licensed Practitioner, Acupuncture is safe and effective, free from adverse or addictive side effects. Quite often, a sense of relaxation and well-being occurs during and after treatments.