Acupuncture in modern society

J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2009 Mar;2(1):26-33. doi: 10.1016/S2005-2901(09)60012-1. Epub 2009 Apr 7.

Abstract

For at least 2,500 years, acupuncture has been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. However, recently as more people in western countries are diagnosed with chronic disease poorly treated with modern medical therapies, many are turning to acupuncture and other forms of alternative medical treatments. Based on the theory of harmonious flowing qi being the basis of good health, acupuncture focuses on restoring qi by manipulation of the complementary and opposing elements of yin and yang. However, in the modern medical community we struggle to with the concept of qi, given a lack of anatomic and histological evidence supporting its existence. However, with the surge in public interest in acupuncture, the scientific community begun heavy investigation of acupuncture's efficacy, as well as the physiologic basis behind it. Thus far, evidence supports the use of acupuncture in post-operative nausea and vomiting, postoperative dental pain, chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain, and possibly also such psychologic conditions as addiction. It is possible that by affecting afferent nerve signaling, acupuncture may influence the release of endogenous opioids to promote pain relief. This effect may be augmented by release of ACTH and cortisol, as well as through down-regulation of signaling through pain fibers. When treating patients who may utilize alternative forms of medicine, it is important that medical practitioners be educated in regards to the basic fundamental beliefs behind acupuncture, as well as the scientific evidence supporting its use and revealing its efficacy. The purpose of this review is to give western trained physicians exposure to history, basic knowledge and its clinical applications of acupuncture to accommodate accelerating interests in acupuncture in modern society.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy* / history
  • China
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / history