History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture’s origins are deeply rooted in ancient China. While there is some disagreement as to whether the practice began two or four millennia ago, what we do know is that acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and has helped many across the globe. Acupuncture brings with it a core set of beliefs that vary greatly from what Western medicine is, for the most part, predicated on. In order to understand the how’s and why’s of this practice, one must understand at least to some degree, the culture that drives it.

Chinese Culture and healing

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is intimately connected to astronomy and the ways in which the planets, seasons, and stars communicate and connect with one another. Much like the symbol of the Yin and Yang, TCM encourages collaborative synergy between opposite parts of the same whole. For example, a 24 hour cycle of time includes both day and night. We are able to differentiate the physical earth by acknowledging the presence of an intangible heaven. These opposites are just that, and as such are integrally linked to one another.

Working together and creating symbiotic harmony is at the core of TCM and by extension, the practice of acupuncture. When acupuncture needles are inserted into one’s meridians, they are arranged in ways meant to repair and heal blocked chi. It is when energy can flow unhindered throughout the body, that balance and optimal health are restored.

How Acupuncture Became Part of Western Culture

China was forced to confront the impact of Western medicine by the late 1800’s. As time went on and suspicions of it’s efficacy grew, acupuncture was banned in China in 1929. This occurred, despite its origins and the traditions in which it was entrenched. It would take 20 years and the rule of Mao Zedung, for acupuncture to make a comeback in its ancestral home.

After years of research, it would take another 40 to 50 years for acupuncture to be considered a modality worth its salt. In the early 1970’s an American journalist awaiting a visit from then President Nixon in China, had an emergency appendectomy and received acupuncture in recovery. So taken by this treatment was he, that doctors who learned about his experience traveled to China to further evaluate acupuncture and his accolades.

It would take many more years until acupuncture would be recognized as an evidence based method of care in the Western world. In fact, despite its age, acupuncture has become more popular and accepted in the United States only within the last 40 years.

From Humble Origins to the Modern Medical World

Since its modest beginnings, acupuncture has blossomed from a basic treatment practiced by healers, to a discipline for which specialized education, licensing, and certification are required. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) proclaimed the safety of acupuncture in 1997. Since that time it has been widely used for a range of conditions and is even covered by many health insurance plans.

Acupuncture is used as a primary treatment method, no longer relegated to being alternative or ‘other.’ While patients seeking acupuncture in Miami may not know or be concerned with the history of this practice, it is most definitely rich, developed, and promising still.


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