Although acupuncture is over 2,000 years old, it was first documented in the text, "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine," written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. in China.  It is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical practices in the world.

Acupuncture terminology

Qi:  Vital energy or life force

Meridians:  The body's pathways, identical on both sides of the body

Acupuncture points:  The points, numbering over 2,000, that connect the body's meridians

Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM.  In TCM, the body is seen as a delicate balance between two opposing forces, yin and yang. Imbalance in these forces results in disease.

The acupuncture handbook : how acupuncture works and how it can help you
Angela Hicks.
London : Piatkus, 2010.
From how to find the right practitioner to which of the "Five Element" types you are-all the basics of this widely accepted yet little understood therapy ¬  Acupuncture is one of the most popular complementary therapies available to the general public, and yet many know little about it, what it can be used for, and how it works. This¬ guide¬ explains how acupuncture works and what it feels like to have treatment. It¬ discusses how acupuncture helps to balance energy and strengthen immune systems and how it can successfully treat a wide variety of ailments, from panic attacks¬ and hot flashes to¬ asthma, joint pains, and the common cold. Also explained is how acupuncture can be used safely and effectively to treat pregnant women, children, and animals. Self-help information and questionnaires are also included to enable¬ readers to discover more about¬ their own¬ Chinese medicine diagnoses.
The encyclopedia of healing points : the home guide to acupoint treatment
Roger Dalet ; translated by Jon E. Graham.
Rochester, Vt. : Healing Arts Press, 2010.
Illustrated in full color, this book presents a complete guide for treating more than 150 diseases and disorders using acupressure. It includes important new acupoints that address ailments resulting from sedentary lifestyles and use of computers.
Meridian exercise for self-healing : classified by common symptoms : back pain, headaches, colds, flu, joint and muscle pain, insomnia
Ilchi Lee ; [translated by Meryl (Meri) Harmon Halem and Youngsook Chang].
Sedona, AZ : BEST Life Media, 2009, c2008.
This full-color, user-friendly book features simple meridian exercises that combine breathing, movement, stretching, and focused attention to improve overall balance and flexibility. The book identifies specific meridian exercises to alleviate common ailments, including headaches, colds, And The flu, As well as more serious conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid disorders. Meridian exercise is a technique developed and perfected over the course of thousands of years in the Asian healing arts traditions. This book includes the following features: bull; Low-impact, time-efficient exercises bull; that relieve stress, restore physical health, and rebalance the mind bull; Step-by-step instructions with accompanying photos for dozens of exercises specifically designed for common symptoms bull; Breathing and relaxation techniques to awaken innate healing power and
Is acupuncture right for you? : what it is, why it works, and how it can help you
Ruth Lever Kidson.
Rochester, Vt. : Healing Arts Press, c2008.
Is Acupuncture Right for You? is regarded by many practitioners as the most concise and useful book to introduce prospective patients to the principles, processes, and benefits of acupuncture. One of the oldest healing therapies known, acupuncture has now become a popular and recognized alternative to Western medicine, particularly for the treatment of chronically painful conditions. While Western medicine manages conditions primarily with drugs and/or surgery, acupuncture focuses on treatment of the person as a whole by identifying and relieving energetic imbalances and blockages throughout the body. Addressing these disruptions in the energy flow, or vital force, of the body treats not only the physical symptoms but also the underlying cause of the ailments.

Acupuncture seeks to restore health by regulating the flow of Qi (pronounced "chee") along the body's meridians, thus restoring the balance between yin and yang.  However, doctors can not explain scientifically how acupuncture works to relieve pain.

It is estimated that Americans receive over 12 million acupuncture treatments each year.
These treatments are used for a variety of illnesses, including:

  • migraine
  • arthritis
  • traumatic muscle/joint injury
  • asthma and bronchitis
  • gallbladder disease
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

As holistic therapy, acupuncture takes into account a patient's physical as well as emotional well-being.  Frequency and length of treatment varies, but most patients experience lasting relief after 3-6 sessions.

Animal acupuncture

Trained verterinarians are using acupuncture to treat many animals, from dogs to elephants.

Treatment methods:

  • Needles -Stainless steel needles ranging from 1-3" in length are inserted at acupuncture points
  • Moxibustion - Burning herbs are used to heat the needle, causing a sensation of heat at the acupuncture point
  • Cupping - Heated cups are applied to acupuncture points, causing a suction effect                  
  • Acupressure - Manual pressure is used to stimulate the acupuncture point

Of the many forms of alternative medicine, acupuncture is one of the most likely to be covered by health insurance.  To find a licensed acupuncture practitioner in your area, contact a national acupuncture organization such as the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff