History of Acupuncture



Acupuncture is an ancient medical technique of traditional Chinese medicine practiced for more than 2,500 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) committee recommends 43 disorders that can be effectively treated by acupuncture. Among three major indications (pain relief, functional adjustment, and immune modulation) of acupuncture treatment, acupuncture analgesia is the most widely used for treatment of human disorders. The origin of acupuncture instruments is postulated as sharpened stone named “bian stone.” The characteristics of meridians are as follows: (1) a meridian is a space containing those structures essential for qi transportation and (2) qi is a vital energy. In traditional Chinese medicine pain is interpreted as a symptom whenever the corresponding meridians are blocked (i.e., so-called “meridian blocked theory”). Accordingly, when the flow of qi is blocked, pain and illness occur. By acupuncture treatment, one can unblock the meridian, thereby reestablishing the flow of qi and relieving the pain. Nowadays, it is well known that the mechanism of acupuncture analgesia is through peripheral stimulation on acupoints and mediated by mobilization of central neuropeptides. Furthermore, stimulation by different frequencies (2, 15, 100 Hz) on acupoints would mobilize different neuropeptides (β-endorphin, enkephalin, dynorphin), bind to the corresponding receptors (μ-opioid receptor, δ-opioid receptor, κ-opioid receptor), and hence induce analgesic effects, respectively. Thanks to the advances of biochemical and biophysical technology, the mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia are elucidated as a consequence of peripheral acupoint stimulation, mobilization of central neural peptides, and triggering of the central inhibitory pathway for modulation of pain sensation. A comprehensive understanding of the origin and history of acupuncture will help Western scientists to integrate this ancient technique as a complementary practice into modern medicine.


Acupuncture Pain relief History fMRI 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Traditional Medicine, School of MedicineNational Yang-Ming UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China
  2. 2.Division of General Surgery, Department of SurgeryTaipei Veterans General Hospital, PeitouTaipeiRepublic of China

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