Looking Back to Look Forward: A History of Acupuncture

Posted December 01, 2015 by Acupuncture & Massage College & filed under Acupuncture

history_of_acupunctureWhen we look to the future of medicine – at the techniques and practices of modern healthcare and the next generation of treatments and cures – it can be helpful to look backward. A look back in time reveals ancient practices that have stood the test of time, and that have continued to grow in application and effectiveness.

One such practice is acupuncture, which has a recorded history of about 2,000 years.

Rooted in energy

The acupuncture philosophy is rooted in the Taoist tradition, which goes back over 8,000 years. As many people do now, at that time, they observed the flow of energy, both in the body and in relation to nature and the universe. It was at that time that the two major forces were identified: creation and reception, and how the interaction of the two form life.

Sources say this duality became known as Yin and Yang, and they make up the roots of Chinese Medicine. The ideal of health involves the perfect harmony between the forces of Yin and Yang, which represents the correct way “Tao.” Disharmony in this relationship causes disease and death.

Acupuncture practice reportedly began during the Stone Age when sharp-edged tools and stones were used to puncture and drain abscesses. These stones eventually were fashioned into tiny needles, and it was further learned that these tools could be used to tap into and connect energy in the body, alleviating disharmony and promoting health.

Acupuncture through the years

According to sources, throughout centuries, interest in acupuncture spread to France, where two of the earliest books on the technique were written in the 18th century. Interest further spread when missionaries from Austria and Germany visited China and learned about the ancient practice. Finally, in the 20th century, news of acupuncture made it to the West and began to grow in popularity after President Nixon went to China in 1971 and journalists traveling with him shared news about acupuncture with the Western world.

Acupuncture today

In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments, and in 1997 the National Institutes of Health acknowledged acupuncture as an effective therapy for a wide range of health conditions. In modern healthcare, acupuncture is now practiced all over the world, integrating the latest in scientific instruments like lasers and ultrasound.

Reviewing this rich history, it is clear acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are rooted in ancient practices that have stood the test of time. The philosophies of Ying and Yang in the body, nature, and the universe continue to be applied in neurosurgery, the treatment of cancer, and other aspects of modern healthcare.

The energy acupuncture engages and releases -- by its very definition -- cannot be destroyed and can only change form. By studying and appreciating the history of acupuncture, we too can change, becoming inspired by what this ancient practice can continue to do.

To learn more about the field of acupuncture, download our free ebook Everything You Need to Know about a Career in Acupuncture.


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