Acupuncture (also known as acupuncture and moxibustion) has been used as routine clinical procedures for thousands of years in China. It has been widely adopted by the general public for its wide range of applications, good results and convenience of use.
It involves using fine needles to pierce specific body areas, while moxibustion is the burning of moxa (the leaf of the Chinese wormwood tree) to provide a warming effect. Acupuncture and moxibustion are considered complimentary forms of treatment and are commonly used together.
A primitive form of acupuncture and moxibustion can be traced back as far as the Chinese Stone Age (4,000-10,000 years ago). While using hot stones to warm themselves, ancient people realized that pressing them against certain parts of the body could help alleviate certain sicknesses. They also found that by using bone needles and pricking themselves in a particular spot could relieve pain in other areas of the body. This knowledge helped them to establish the theory of the meridian system and also create medical instruments for healing.
Over the centuries, acupuncture has continued to be refined and developed both in its theoretical underpinnings and clinical applications. Modern physicians know and understand better acupuncture, which make this treatment procedure more applicable to modern health needs. Even though there are many styles of acupuncture practice, which vary in diagnostic methods, selection of acupoints as well as needling techniques, the treatment goal remains constant: to restore the smooth flow of meridians so that different body parts can work in harmony again, thus providing the body with extra energy for self-healing.
Unlike herbal therapy which uses external substances to supplement the body, acupuncture is concerned with stimulating and enhancing the body's self-healing power. Acupuncture is physical stimulation, which creates a cascade of positive changes inside the body to promote physiological functions, self regulation and encourage the body's self-healing abilities. In other words, acupuncture largely relies on the body's own regulatory state to accomplish its therapeutic proposes; if the health condition cannot resolve through body's own natural healing abilities, then other alternatives should be used in a timely manner. Understanding the concrete action of acupuncture gives insight to its clinical validity.
Modern studies have revealed that acupuncture can stimulate the body's signaling systems, which speed up the healing process under certain circumstances. This means that acupuncture can either cure disease or alleviate symptoms through its multiple regulating effects.
Preclinical studies have documented the effects of acupuncture; however, they are still not able to fully explain how acupuncture works using modern scientific theory. According to the National Institute of Health, acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals such as hormones causing biochemical changes that help regulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.