A brief history

Acupuncture developed in China with the first codifications of the basic theories and systems of medicine taking place between 475 BCE and 265 CE.

Acupuncture forms one of the 3 strands of Chinese Medicine, the other 2 being Chinese Herbs and Tui Na.  Typically a doctor training in China in Traditional Chinese Medicine will study all 3 strands but specialize in one.

Acupuncture is widely used in the far east with each country developing its own style of acupuncture, e.g Japan has its own style of acupuncture characterized by use of very fine needles and shallow insertion of the needle especially good if you dislike needles.  However they do also like to burn moxa (a herb used to introduce heat) directly onto the skin.

Independent of the development of acupuncture in the far east, Janet Travell  in the US developed a system of saline injections followed by dry needling to treat trigger points and musculo-skeletal problems.  This process has been further developed by Mark Seem and is detailed in one of his books, “A New American Acupuncture”

Acupuncture took off in the West following Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1971.  During this visit a reporter from the New York Times was taken ill with appendicitis.  After having his appendix surgically removed in the standard fashion he went on to experience some side effects from the surgery which were treated with acupuncture.  His story of his miraculous recovery might be seen as the first time acupuncture was exposed to the general population in the West.  Since then there has been an exponential explosion in research into acupuncture and today it is available as a treatment on the high street in most cities in the UK.

What can acupuncture treat?

The British Acupuncture Council has very kindly provided a list of disease states for which there is evidence that acupuncture may be of some use.  You can find this information by following this link:

The NHS takes a more conservative view of what is treatable.  I am quoting here from the NHS website:

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidelines for the NHS on the use of treatments and care of patients.

Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:

  • persistent lower back pain
  • chronic tension type headaches
  • migraines “

You can read more on the NHS on acupuncture here

Acupuncture in my opinion is useful for the above plus all forms of pain relief, all forms of musculo-skeletal disharmony, all forms of menstrual irregularity, stress & anxiety, allergies and immune system issues.

What to expect during an acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture treatments in China are typically 40 minutes (this corresponds to 2 full meridian cycles).  Prior to this there will be a consultation looking at medical history and current health and current signs and symptoms.  The pulse will be taken on both wrists and details of the tongue including coating and colour will be noted.