Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique and art based upon thousand-year-old writings about the flow of energy through the body. Acupuncture works by stimulating certain ‘energy clusters’ and therefore modifying the flow of energy through the body. This is achieved through the careful insertion of needles, and in some cases by using needles with the blunt end on fire. For decades, scientists have been skeptical and have claimed that acupuncture is nothing more than a placebo but a more recent study contests the other findings and claims to have found a measurable effect to acupuncture.
So what is acupuncture and how does it work? Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese tradition dating back two thousand years with some people claiming it reaches back as far as the late stone age when sharp stone tools first started being used to cut and drain abscesses. The first mention of the practice in a recorded text is made in the Nei Ching Su Wen, a book also known as the Yellow Emperor’s Medicine Tome, where the implements of acupuncture are described. Today, these implements are mostly forgotten as only the thin sharp needles are still in use alongside the moxa plant, which is still burned atop them.
Acupuncture claims to work by altering the flow of energy through the body along the so-called energy pathways. The major pathways are described in the Nei Ching Su Wen but it was later, around the year 1000 that the exact points and methods for needle insertion were defined and set in stone (literally, as a statue was erected!). While initially all these ‘meridians’ and ‘insertion points’ were wrapped in a good layer of mysticism and philosophy, recent tests such as the aforementioned British study attempt to separate the mysticism from the fact, a challenging feat as it is hard to select a ‘control’ group for needle insertion.
While scientists are still debating the truthfulness of claims about the benefits of acupuncture, thousands of people swear by it and even the WHO recognizes the therapeutic value of acupuncture in 28 different conditions. Pain relief seems to be the main area that acupuncture is effective in, as a majority of patients undergoing pain relief treatments seem satisfied by the impact of acupuncture. Acupuncture also seems to work in restoring muscle mobility in the aftermath of a stroke and in countering the effects of mouth dryness in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
While the medical jury is still out on acupuncture there are millions of people that claim it has had significant effect on their lives and even reputed journals and organizations admit it as a therapeutic tool in certain conditions. If you suffer from one of those conditions, acupuncture might bring relief for you.