Acupuncture, Its History, Philosophy, and Techniques

Historical Background

The acupuncture procedure involves the insertion of tiny, solid, steel needles into the skin that are either electrically or manually stimulated by the practitioner using small, exact movements. Acupuncture is a medical technique initiated back in China about 3000 years ago. The Qi (life force or vital energy) flow channels were already well-established by this point, and the knowledge probably came from a combination of long-standing customs. At that time, acupuncture was performed with long, pointed bones and needles made from sharpened stones. These tools could have been employed for straightforward surgical procedures like lancing an abscess or similar treatments. Acupuncture was refined over time, and insertion points were narrowed until they were widely used in China with massage, herbs, and diet.

Founders of Acupuncture

The Chinese Emperor Huangdi is credited with discovering acupuncture in 2500 BC (Mandal, 2019). Emperor Huangdi was most likely not around when acupuncture first emerged, which most likely happened between 5000 and 6000 BC during the Neolithic Period. It most likely developed as a logical progression from massage. After some time, Ten Rhijne, an East India Company employee who observed acupuncture use in Japan, provided a European physician’s first medical account of acupuncture in around 1680 (Mandal, 2019). The French Jesuits introduced the acupuncture technique to treat pain and a number of other conditions that were being treated by European doctors at the time through bloodletting and purging (Mandal, 2019). Thereafter, there was a surge of interest in both Britain and America in the first half of the nineteenth century, and several papers started to appear in the scientific literature.

Historical Records That Detail the Practice

From the historical records, the Chinese medical treatise Huang Neijing, which was based, introduced the theory and practice of what was undeniably human acupuncture in the historical sense. The Huang Neijing popularized the notion that the human body is made up of functional centers (referred to as “depots” and “palaces”) that are linked by a network of secondary and primary conduits that permit influences (referred to as “qi”) to go both inside and outside the body. Older sections of the text were influenced by advice to use bloodletting as a form of medicine. Bloodletting eventually gave way to acupuncture, and the emphasis moved from drawing out visible blood to controlling intangible qi.

However, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which dates to around 100 BCE, is the first writing to explicitly explain acupuncture practice (Zhang et al., 2018). The material is given in the form of the Emperor’s queries, and Chhi-Po, his minister, learned responses. The literature is still quoted in support of specific therapeutic methods and is probably a collation of traditions conceded over many years. It is also displayed in the form of the dominant Taoist philosophy. Even though the particular acupuncture anatomical sites developed later, the notions of channels where the Qi (vital energy or life force) flowed are well defined by this stage.

Over the ensuing decades, acupuncture was refined and documented in the literature. For instance, bronze statues used for teaching and testing in the fourteenth century depict the acupuncture sites still in use today. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was authored, which serves as the foundation for contemporary acupuncture. The entire set of 365 points, which stand for entrances to the pathways through which needles could be put to change the flow of Qi energy, are clearly described in it.

Acupuncture Philosophical Concepts

The idea behind acupuncture is that certain body parts can be treated by applying pressure or tiny needles to certain locations. This therapeutic approach has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with underpinning philosophies drawn from Confucianism and Taoism. According to this philosophy, qi, which translates to “vital energy” and encapsulates the yin/yang contradiction that permeates all physical worlds, must be balanced for health. This notion of qi is based on the five elements of wood, water, fire, earth, and metal. This vital energy is disrupted by a blockage or an excess of any. Acupuncture attempts to unblock obstructions or lessen excessive qi flowing via particular meridians in the body. According to this philosophy, wellness is a working interconnectedness rather than only the absence of disease. There aren’t any isolated symptoms; each one is brought on by a blockage or excess unique to the person. Qi balancing restores interconnectedness, which promotes wellness.

Acupuncture Approaches Used

The most often-used type of acupuncture is employed as a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It focuses on restoring the proper flow of Qi (life force) along the body’s meridians (energy pathways) to bring the body back into balance, regardless of the condition being treated. Acupoints are localized regions known as acupoints where practitioners insert small, thin needles about 1.5 inches long to stimulate flow. Auricular acupuncture is the second method applied. This method treats parts of the remainder of the body and addresses certain disharmonies by using one part of the body—the ear. Points on the ear are stimulated by the practitioner using either needles or very small electrical currents. Acupuncture with a microsystem approach is frequently used to treat pain and substance abuse.

Another variation of acupuncture that promotes health is acupressure. To improve the flow of qi, the practitioner applies pressure with precisely placed fingers to certain spots along the body’s meridians. Last, Western medicine has recently adopted acupuncture and created a new category known simply as “medical acupuncture” due to its utility and adaptability. The primary objective of this strategy is pain management, and the acupuncturist chooses acupoints that cause neurological reactions to block pain. Electrical stimulation is frequently administered as a nerve block for further benefits.

Tools Utilized within the Practice

The most common apparatus used is acupuncture needles, which are typically flexible, stainless steel needles with a length of 10 to 100 mm. Longer needles will be required to access areas with denser tissue. Typically, thin and brief needles are used in the head and neck. Between sessions, they ought to be properly sterilized or single-use. The plastic tube is the second most significant tool. The plastic guide tube, typically included in needling kits, aids in the needle’s fast penetration of the skin. Pulling the tube upward frees the needles from the tube, allowing the acupuncturist to lower the needle to the proper depth.

An auriculotherapy device, another popular acupuncture instrument, is used to activate acupuncture sites on the inner ear. These spots on the ear are both found and treated by the gadget using an electrical wand. It is a painless substitute for ear acupuncture that helps treat gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, and chronic pain. Being jabbed with needles is also not the most enjoyable sensation. But by offering a cozy table or chair, treatments might be more tolerable. While some of these tables are rather simple, others have conveniences like soft padding and automatic table adjustments.


Hal, M.V., Dydyk, A.M. and Green, M.S. (2022). Acupuncture. Statpearls NCBI bookshelf. Web.

Mandal, A. (2019). Acupuncture history. News-Medicals. Web.

Tan, J., Guo, X., & Yang, D. (2017). Analysis on Neiguan in “Great compendium of acupuncture and moxibustion”. Journal of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, 430-431.

Zhang, W. B., Wang, Y. P., & Li, H. Y. (2018). Analysis on correlation between meridians and viscera in book the yellow emperor’s internal classic. Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture Research, 43(7), 424-429.

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