When the human body was finally described in terms of cells, biochemicals, and specific structures (most of this accomplished less than 150 years ago), the Chinese method of acupuncture and its underlying concepts were evaluated in these new terms.
Although acupuncture is believed to have been practiced in China for as long as 5,000 years, it is a recent introduction in the West. It was first introduced into Britain at the end of the 18th century, when it was initially taken very seriously by the medical profession. In 1827 there was a fully reported case of a man having been cured of dropsy by the method at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and in the same year the medical journal the Lancet reported the results of a long-term trial in which more than 100 patients with rheumatism had been successfully treated at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. But as scientific medicine rapidly developed, acupuncture soon fell into decline and came to be derided.Twentieth - Century DevelopmentsIn France interest in acupuncture developed at the end of the 19th century, and in 1928 the returning French consul to China. who had translated many treatises on the subject from Chinese into French, fostered a great interest in the subject. Ever since that time it has been a recognized method of treatment in France.It was not until 1958 that it was discovered, in China, that acupuncture could be effective as an anesthetic and operations began to be performed using this method. East-West relations improved in the 1970s, and President Richard Nixon visited China with three of his physicians, who were able to observe acupuncture in action.In the last decade or so there has been much research into acupuncture in both East and West. Early studies aimed to verify the existence of the meridians and acupoints and to determine how the therapy works. One theory suggested that acupuncture activates "pain barriers" in the nervous system. Other research has suggested that during acupuncture the brain releases endorphins, chemicals that naturally reduce pain and enhance the feeling of well-being.The World Health Organization has recognized the value of acupuncture for treating around 100 common ailments, and it is increasingly being incorporated into Western healthcare systems.Western Forms of PracticeTraditionally, acupuncture has always been performed by hand, with the practitioner developing sensitivity in the hands and fingertips for both diagnosis and needle manipulation. In recent years, however, many "handsoff" types of treatment have been developed using electrical or laser stimulation of the acupuncture points.In the West, especially in Germany, a number of electroacupuncture measuring devices have been developed that claim to measure precisely the amount of electrical energy in each of the meridians and determine appropriate points for treatment. At the same time several devices have been developed for home use that enable lay people to locate points for common ailments and treat them electrically. These may provide some relief for mild ailments but it is better to consult a qualified practitioner for more serious disorders.In Japan a form of electroacupuncture known as "Ryodoraku" is quite popular and it has already been adopted by some Western acupuncturists. The procedure involves attaching small clips to the needles after they have been inserted and passing a small electrical current through them. A tingling sensation is felt around the point, and the electrical stimulation is said to remove blockages and promote circulation in the tissues. This technique is effective for pain relief.More recently some acupuncturists have experimented with innovations such as stimulating the acupuncture points with light, sound, and plant essences. Laser therapy is also becoming popular and is applied by means of a laser pen or "gun" that emits a laser beam directly into the acupuncture point. This is thought to promote rapid healing and is popular with some medically trained acupuncturists, but traditional acupuncturists still prefer to use their hands and senses rather than machines.