The earliest that acupuncture can be traced back in human history was approximately 5,000 years ago. In the Ne Jing Su Wen, otherwise known as the Yellow Emperor Classic, it is clearly stated in this ancient text that acupuncture was at that time already considered very old, surely making it one of the great mysteries of the ancient world.
So what do we know about it? Firstly the places on the body that acupuncture needles are traditionally applied have a slightly hollow feeling due to the reduced skin surface tension directly on top of these acupuncture points (tsub’s). These same points also exhibit greater electrical conductivity than the surrounding skin- this is scientifically verifiable and detectable with instruments such as Kirlian cameras and skin galvanometers.
The Yellow Emperor’s physician Chi Po when asked, explained that acupuncture came from a time when people lived more than a hundred years, lived in accordance with nature and could see acupuncture points with the naked eye. So how did these electrically anomalous skin spots become a therapy? just why would a bunch of early humans go jabbing themselves with sharp things to see what would happen and eventually discover it was good for them?
It is a question we may never know the answer to but develop it did, into the most frequently used therapy in the world today. It is even recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation) for dozens of applications and not just as pain relief; bronchitis, constipation, indigestion and nausea are other WHO endorsed uses of acupuncture. Even IVF clinics are now recommending acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for female infertility.
All this from an industry without lots of money to research and advertise, even in it’s native country China, acupuncture was almost completely eradicated in the mid 1950’s by chairman Mao. Mao was then forced to bring it back because nothing worked as well and as cheaply, perhaps the only thing he ever backed down from. I discovered it like a lot of Westerners do- when other things didn’t work.
Most acupuncture points are said to be joined by 14 invisible lines (meridians) that are not so easy to scientifically validate as tsubo’s are. It has been speculated that the meridians are really major veins and arteries which is interesting because students are taught NOT to needle over large blood vessels.
Whatever the case acupuncture has survived and is still quite effectively used today and not just for the physical, acupuncture can help relax people too and calm them down. Doctor Leon Hammer a psychiatrist, uses it with his psychiatric patients and wrote a fascinating book about it called “Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies” Hammer even states in his book that he finds acupuncture quite compatible with psycho therapy.
Many chiropractors and osteopaths use acupuncture too and kinesiology is based on it also and many doctors of medicine use it too. Acupuncture was in a large part first taken to the rest of the world by Jesuit missionaries in China who were so impressed with what they saw they wanted to tell everyone else about it.
If you are a bit scared of needles you can always try shiatsu or acupressure which work the same way but without the needles.