The History of Acupuncture

Time-tested treatments are often the best options for controlling pain and managing health conditions. Acupuncture, a natural treatment method invented thousands of years ago, still offers important benefits today.

Stone Needles Eliminated Pain for Early Man

Fu Xi, a founder of Chinese medicine principles, was one of the first medical practitioners to treat pain and other symptoms by inserting needles into the body. According to legend, he created nine different types of stone needles during the New Stone Age, which took place from 8000 to 3000 BC. Early acupuncturists used thin pieces of sharpened stone called "Bian Shi" to perform treatments. Eventually, stone needles were replaced by those made of gold or silver.

Ancient Books Detailed Acupuncture Principles Still Used Today

"The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic," a book written sometime during the fifth to first centuries BC, explored acupuncture in detail. The book discussed techniques to insert and manipulate needles and described the process in which Qi flows through the body in a series of channels or meridians. Qi is a life force necessary for good physical and mental health. A variety of unpleasant symptoms can happen if Qi becomes blocked, depending on where the blockage occurs.

The book also mentioned Yin and Yang for the first time. The opposite forces balance each other and are manifestations of Qi. If your Yin-Yang balance is disrupted, you may be more likely to develop infections, constipation, headaches, high blood pressure, heart issues, and other health problems. Yin and Yang was an integral part of the early acupuncturist's focus on the whole person, rather than solely on a set of symptoms.

Although "The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic" described the meridians that transport Qi throughout the body, it didn't mention where acupuncture needles should be placed. The publication of a new book during the Ming Dynasty, "The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion," finally gave acupuncturists that much-need information. The book charted 365 acupuncture points and explained how they corresponded to specific meridians and areas of the body.

Western Doctors Embrace Acupuncture While China Bans It

Acupuncture was practiced in England as early as the 17th century. After traveling to China, returning employees of the Dutch East India Company shared their knowledge of the treatment with British doctors, who were fascinated by the treatment. Ironically, acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine were banned in China in 1929. The ban was reversed in 1949, although it's likely that acupuncture continued to be practiced quietly during the years it was prohibited.

Despite interest in acupuncture and Chinese medicine in many countries throughout the world, the treatment was largely ignored in the U.S. until President Richard Nixon paid a visit to China in the early 1970s. A reporter covering President Nixon's trip developed appendicitis while in China and received surgery and acupuncture treatment there. His article about the experience, published in the New York Times, piqued the interest of American doctors who traveled to the country to learn more.

Acupuncture Becomes Accepted as an Effective Treatment in the U.S.

Although acupuncture use gradually increased during the 1980s and 90s, questions about its effectiveness lingered. Fortunately, the National Institutes of Health erased those doubts with a 1997 statement that confirmed that acupuncture was helpful in treating nausea, relieving pain, helping people recover from strokes, and reducing headache, asthma, and fibromyalgia symptoms.

Since then, research studies have confirmed that acupuncture offers an effective method to treat a variety of conditions and diseases, such as stress, anxiety, infertility, impotence, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. Acupuncture treatments may help you lower the dosage of the medication you use to control your disease or condition or even eliminate the need for prescription drugs in some cases. The treatment can also help you manage drug side effects if eliminating the drug isn't a possibility.

Would you like to find out if acupuncture can help you feel better? Contact us to schedule an appointment.


Oxford Academic: A Brief History of Acupuncture, 5/1/04

Acupuncture in Medicine:

Medical Acupuncture: An Historical Review and Perspective on the Impact of Acupuncture on U.S. Medicine and Society, 10/13

Acufinder: The History of Acupuncture


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