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Brief History of Acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture has been around for more than 5000 years. It is a common alternative practiced in China and Asian countries. Recently, it has become more accepted in the Western states. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) has recognized acupuncture as an effective alternative treatment for various conditions.

During the New Stone Age, practitioner discovered that by using Bian stone, type of needle made from stones, to rub against the body it had some therapeutic effects. Advancement in technology gradually changed the needles to what is used today called the filiform needles. These needles are the most commonly used for modern acupuncture treatments.

How acupuncture works in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Acupuncture is a method that uses stainless steel filiform needles which are inserted into certain points on the body to stimulate Qi (energy) and blood. The overall well-being of a body depends on the quality of Qi and blood. The flow of Qi through pathways in the human body are called meridians. These meridians have a physiological effect and can be affected by various diseases and have pathological manifestations.. Acupuncture  also provides:

  • Homeostasis within the body
  • Transports Qi and blood
  • Regulates yin and yang

The meridians connect with the vital organs to form a network, thus linking the tissue and organs.

The purpose of acupuncture is to bring any disharmony of Qi, blood, yin or yang within the body back to balance. Any imbalance within the body will lead to disease. Depending on the type of disease, a stimulation is induced by the various acupuncture manipulation provided by the practitioner.

How acupuncture works in Western Medicine?

The body is made up of the immune system, endocrine system and the nervous system. These systems do not function independently, but rather they interact with each other harmoniously to provide homeostasis and well-being. Pathological factors or changes in the external environment may trigger the body to counterattack to maintain good health. The body’s robustness regulates this function. A recent study has shown that the use of acupuncture can stimulate robustness. Acupuncture treatment is able to regulate the internal environment of the body, thus maintaining homeostasis. Acupuncture provides either a positive or negative feedback that contributes to certain stimuli within the body. Positive feedback will stimulate the robustness of the body; whereas, a negative feedback will decrease activity with an overactive system1.

A systematic review performed by Santiago et al. showed that acupuncture is able to trigger physiological mechanism when muscle fibers are manipulated by the needles. Current findings have shown that acupuncture can modify activity of the cortical and subcortical brain areas. This provides evidence that acupuncture can influence pain related activity through connectivity of the central nervous system2.

Another study done by Fletcher Kovich mentioned that acupuncture travels within the body through means of electrical waves via connective tissue. The connective tissue connects to certain organs. When a particular organ is stressed, acupuncture is able to stimulate the acupoint and counter the effect to resume homeostasis3.  

There are ongoing studies on acupuncture in Western medicine. With all the research being done, there is no set answer to how acupuncture actually works. The WHO and NIH have multiple studies of acupuncture for certain conditions which can be found on their website. Being that acupuncture has been around for centuries, it is an alternative method that cannot be overlooked. For more information about acupuncture or TCM, please contact your practitioner.


(1) Xu Y, Guo Y, Song Y, Zhang K, Zhang Y, Li Q, et al. A New Theory for Acupuncture: Promoting Robust Regulation. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2018; 11(1): 39-43.

(2) Santiago MV, Tumility S, Macznik A, Mani R. Does Acupuncture Alter Pain-related Functional Connectivity of the Central Nervous System? A Systematic Review. J Acupunct Meridian Stu. 2016; 9(4): 167-177.

(3) Kovich, Fletcher. A Curious Oversight in Acupuncture Research. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2017; 10(6): 411-415.

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