Acupuncture is a system of healing that involves the insertion of very fine sterile needles into specific points, known as acupuncture points, along the surface of the body. It originated in China over 2500 years ago and is an intrinsic part of Chinese medicine, used as a therapeutic intervention for various illnesses. Today, acupuncture remains an integral component of the health care provision in China and other East Asian countries treating new diseases of the modern era. Ancient texts and their development and refinements have informed the knowledge basis for acupuncture today. Since it has been practiced not only in Asian but also in Western countries, a diverse variety of conceptual models and styles of clinical practice and techniques have emerged.
The earliest medical text on acupuncture, the ‘Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic’ (Huan Di nei jing), compiled and expanded between approximately the period of 100 B.C. and 400 A.D., is based on Chinese philosophy, embracing the theory of qi (pronounced ‘chee’), a life-sustaining substance, which is commonly referred to as the vital life-force. Consequently a true physiological system, characterised by the idea of continuity or connectivity has developed to account for the circulation of qi and to serve as a basis for human anatomy and physiology. This system, a network of channels (meridians) with discrete pathways, which connects with the organs, the environment, illness and treatment, is at the core of acupuncture. This conception of unification by the channels reflects the principle of ‘holism’, asserting, that the disease, the body and the therapist form a trio that is to be considered in the process of healing.
Theorists of Chinese medicine strove to appreciate the relationship between the human body and its environment, between the microcosm and the macrocosm making every effort to understand how disease affects the organs and, in the process of recovery, how to re-establish its natural balance and health.
Chinese medicine describes health and disease in terms of harmonious or disrupted ‘patterns’ and holds that disease is caused by an imbalance of the life-force qi. Acupuncture, works by determining a person’s unique pattern and then inserting fine sterile needles into acupuncture points on the channel pathways that carry the qi; the aim is to stimulate the body’s own healing response and so to correct the flow of qi and restore physical and emotional health.