Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of healing used for at least four thousand years. It is a system of healing in which the body’s inherent defence, repair and maintenance systems are stimulated by means of the selective insertion of fine needles through the skin. The points for insertion are located along the meridians along which the energy (or chi), according to the ancient Chinese tradition, is perceived to flow through the body. The oldest surviving description is the “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” which was written in China about 100 BC. By the sixth century, the practice of acupuncture had been codified and standardised throughout China, and it remained one of the mainstays of Chinese medical practice until outlawed in 1929 by the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek. The practice of acupuncture continued in rural areas until the ban was lifted by Mao Tse-tung in 1949.
The first information in Europe about acupuncture was published by Dutch traders to Japan in the late eighteenth century. In 1821, the Englishman J. M. Churchill published “A Treatise on Acupuncturation” under the aegis of the Royal College of Surgeons and brought knowledge of the practice into the British area of influence.
In addition to the natural therapists who practise traditional Chinese medicine, many doctors and physiotherapists now also use acupuncture and it has become an accepted form of treatment, particularly for the relief of pain, in orthodox medical practice. Scientifically, it is believed that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are a potent narcotic painkiller that are naturally produced in small quantities in the body. A full explanation for its actions in other diseases has not yet been found, and its use for these is more controversial.
During acupuncture treatment, very fine needles are inserted into various points on the body. These points contain nerve endings, and correspond to areas of reduced electrical resistance on the skin. These areas can be detected by a meter that measures electrical resistance.