What is Acupuncture?
The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, though it may seem strange and mysterious to many, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated today.
The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of "vital energy," "energetic balance" and "energetic imbalance." Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling via the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this "vital energy" within its pathways, known as "meridians and channels".
The acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these "meridians". Traditionally these areas or "acupoints" were stimulated by fine, slender needles. Today, many additional forms of stimulation are incorporated, including herbs, electricity, magnets and lasers. Still, the aim remains the same - adjust the "vital energy" so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself.
History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture was first discussed in the ancient Chinese medical text "Huang Di Nei Jing" (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine), originating more than 2000 years ago.
During the 6th Century, improved transportation and communications within the Asian Continent led to the introduction of Chinese medicine to Japan, and along with Buddhism came in the form of religious medicine.
In the 17th century, Waichi Sugiyama, in search of a simple, painless and speedy insertion method, developed the insertion tube, a small cylindrical tube through which the needle is inserted. This insertion method is still used today by practitioners worldwide, and in Japan by over 90% of the acupuncturists.
Japanese acupuncture has been well established as the primary form of health care for over a thousand years. An acupuncturist's role was comparable to that of a modern physician. When Dutch and German medicine was introduced in the 19th century, the Western modality of medicine quickly became the dominant medical practice.
Today in Japan, acupuncture remains an integral part of the health care system, offered in conjunction with medicine. In North America, acupuncture has grown into what is now a common form of pain management therapy in many clinics and hospitals. The Washington Post reported in 1994 that an estimated 15 million Americans, or roughly 6% of the American population has visited an acupuncturist and has tried acupuncture for a variety of symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, nausea, arthritis, and digestive problems.
In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments and assured their safety and effectiveness.
The medical community for the most part now accepts acupuncture and a growing number of medical schools, such as UCLA, include acupuncture training in their curriculum.
In 1997, the US National Institute of Health issued a report titled: "Acupuncture: The NIH Consensus Statement". It stated that acupuncture is a very useful method for treating many conditions. It acknowledges the side effects of acupuncture are considerably less adverse than when compared to other medical procedures such as surgery or pharmaceuticals. In addition, the NIH made the recommendation to U.S. insurance companies to provide full coverage of acupuncture treatment for certain conditions. This momentous advancement in the status of acupuncture in the United States has certainly influenced its status elsewhere in the world, including in Canada.
In 1997, the Ontario Medical Association officially recognized acupuncture as a 'complimentary medicine', acknowledging its broad success in treatment. As acupuncture becomes increasingly accessible to more Canadians, Doctors recommend it more and more as an effective relief for many medical conditions.
Acupuncture treatment is included in many Insurance plans. It is a sure sign of acupuncture's acceptance into the mainstream. It is also an indicator of its success.
Acupuncture is just one form of therapy used within the coherent system of healing known as Oriental Medicine. Oriental Medicine includes herbology, physical therapy, dietetics and special exercises (such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong), and is a complete medical system unto itself and is not another branch of modern Western medicine. Acupuncture evolved from principles and philosophies unique to Oriental thinking and Oriental Medicine, and is most effectively applied when done in accordance with those principles.
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