The Origins of Acupuncture
Acupuncture and its newer variant electro acupuncture are both methods of treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is an ancient method of treatment which was believed until fairly recently to have had its origin in China several thousand years ago. This link to China was due to the fact that it has been a recognised part of Chinese medicine for several thousand years and because the earliest written evidence of the existence of acupuncture is in a three thousand year old book also originating from China which refers to acupuncture at that time as being an ancient method of treatment with unknown origins.
Acupuncture and Otzi the Ice Man
However the discovery of Otzi the 5000 year old mummified man in the Otz valley in the mountainous border area between Italy and Austria in 1991 has put this theory in doubt. You may be fascinated like I was to find out that it was the tattoos on Otzi‘s body which prompted this revelation. Tattoos are usually ornamental yet some of the tattoos found on his body were in areas which would normally be covered up and they were in the form of simple stripes and crosses. Experts from three acupuncture societies have examined the locations of his tattoos and there was an amazing degree of correlation between the tattoos and the acupuncture points.
Principles of Acupuncture
Before an acupuncturist can begin any treatment they first have to make a diagnosis and this is done by interviewing the patient and examining their pulse and tongue. Acupuncture is administered to balance and improve the flow of chi through the body’s meridians as illness is caused when the chi does not flow as it should. An acupuncturist works out where the chi is weak, out of balance or stagnated and then uses this information to decide on which acupuncture points should be stimulated. Electro acupuncture is often used to dissipate an accumulation of chi in an area, which can result from chronic pain or in cases where chi is difficult to stimulate.
Patients more usually lie down for their session of treatment. The area of skin into which the sterilised needles will be placed is sanitised. One advantage of electro acupuncture is that needle placement is not so critical because the electrical current treats a larger area. Electro acupuncture needs two needles to be inserted so that the current can pass from one needle to the other. The current is applied by attaching a clip from a small machine to the needles and the charge used is very small. The current is used to remove the need for continual manual stimulation and can reduce the amount of treatment time needed as it produces a strong effect without the tissue damage which can sometimes arise from the twisting and movement of the needle up and down.
The acupuncture points or acupoints are located by the practitioner using a measurement unit called a cun and it is a proportional measurement computed using the distances between key anatomical landmarks which is calculated differently on different parts of the body. The distance between the two nipples is 8 cun and this cun can then be used to located acupoints on the chest whereas the distance between the centre of the patella to the lateral malleous is 16 cun and measurement is used to find acupoint this on the legs. There are over 350 recognised acupoints but many of the points are rarely used and some points are considered to be particularly potent and are utilised to treat a large number of different conditions.