Acupuncture has been practiced for about 5000 years in China and other Asian countries. Over the course of these millennia the ancient practitioners developed many elaborate concepts and systems that reflected the religious beliefs and the medical, social and cultural traditions of their time.
Clinical evidence shows that acupuncture has its own special merits which are not the same as those of the high-tech-oriented Western medicine. It is effective for a variety of health problems, but particularly for cases in which Western medicine has little to offer, and especially in the field of pain management. It is a safe, low cost modality which is easy to administer and has no side effects if performed by a trained practitioner; it can be effective by itself or as a complement to other medical procedures.
The common feature shared by all the different types of acupuncture is using needles to make lesions in the soft tissue (acu-puncture). Needles and needle-induced lesions activate the built-in survial mechanisms that mormalize the smooth function of the body systems and promote self-healing. This process consists of two-parts: central and local.
For the central mechanism needling and needle-induced lesions stimilate parts of the brain that activate the principal survival systems of the body-the nervous system, theendocrine system (the hormones and body chemicals), the immune system, and cardiovascular system and normalize the inner workings of the whole body.
In the case of the local mechanism needling and the resulting lesions trigger physiological reactions aroung the needling sites that involve all four survival systems in desensitizing and repairing the damaged tissues. At the needling site, a cascade of survial reactions occur, including the immune reaction, and we call this the local needling reaction. These local "needle reactions" directly desensitize the painful nerves and repair the damged soft tissues. The process of desensitization and tissue repair is often triggered immediately by the "needle reaction" at the needling sites.
Thus acupuncture can be defined as a physiological therapy coordinated by the brain which responds to the stimulations of manual or electrical needling of distant sensory nerves. In relation to this definition, there is one concept that cannot be overmphasized: that acupunture does not treat any particular pathological symptom but normalizes physiological homeostasis and promotes self-healing. Thus acupunture, in terms of its therapeutic mechanisms, is nonspecific: acupuncture does not target an particular symptom or disease but treats the body as a whole.
Understanding this nonspecific nature of acupuncture can provide an answer to the puzzling question: what symptoms and diseases can it treat?
As a physiological therapy, the effectivenness of acupuncture depends on (1) the healabilty of the symptoms or disease(s), and (2) the self-healing potential maintained by each patient.
The same symptom or disease can be completely healable in one patient but only partially healable or even not healable at all in another because the self-healing potential varies form one person to another. Therefore, acupuncture effectivenss varies from person to person. When treating the same symptom or disease, acupuncture therapy might achieve a miraculous result in patient A, partial relief in patient B, and have little or no effect in patient C.
Biomedical acupuncture combines laboratory research and practical clinical experience; it is derived from two great traditions-300 years of Western analytical science and 2500 years of Oriental observation and practice; and it suceeds in providing both the standardized treatment protocol the Western scientific medicine demands and the adjustable personalizable approach of Oriental medicine.