Does Acupuncture Work? Discover 6 interesting facts

Woman undergoing acupuncture

For a practice that involves poking someone with needles (and sometimes running electricity through those needles), acupuncture sure has a lot of believers. So does Acupuncture work? Practitioners and patients have long maintained that this ancient method of traditional Chinese medicine can root out the causes of physical symptoms, and then heal them. Do these experts in alternative healing know something we don’t?

Check out six interesting facts about acupuncture and decide for yourself. 

Acupuncture is about as old as the Stonehenge in England.

Around 3,000 years ago, about the same time when the stone circle of England’s Stonehenge was being erected, Emperor Huangdi established the practice of acupuncture in China.  But it wasn’t until 100 BCE when acupuncture was officially written about in a medical publication. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine described acupuncture as “an organised system of diagnosis and treatment.” Today, more than 10 million acupuncture treatments are administered annually in Australia, according to a BMC Public Health survey. It’s safe to say, acupuncture has stood the test of time, which can only be a testament to its healing benefits.

An acupuncturist’s needles have just one aim: to reestablish balance.

Science tells us everything is made up of energy, including humans. One of the principles of acupuncture is the concept of Qi (the body’s energy life force). Our bodies are made up of a complex “highway” of energy channels—also known as meridians—through which Qi needs to flow freely. Each point of energy corresponds to a body part or major organ. Sometimes, the flow of Qi is blocked because of injury or high stress. This triggers (or at least, aggravates) physical, mental, or emotional health issues. The aim of acupuncture is to stimulate the blocked energy points until Qi can flow freely again, restoring good health and balance. It makes sense that having free-flowing energy throughout your body would benefit both physical and mental health.

Needles weren’t used in the early years.

The first thing you probably think about when you hear the word “acupuncture” is needles poking your skin. When this alternative health method just started, needles didn’t exist. Instead, early practitioners used sharpened stones and long, thin, sharp bones to treat patients. (They were said to have used the same tools to perform simple surgeries. So it wasn’t a big deal when they whipped these out to do acupuncture.) Thankfully acupuncture has come a long way since then, and the use of extremely thin needles, made from surgical steel are used today. This makes for very little pain during the treatment.

Tattoo marks on an ancient frozen man’s body show proof of a meridian system.

Acupuncture’s sophisticated but ancient process of treatment came to light when scientists discovered the frozen body of an ice man whose tattoo marks roughly outlined a kind of “map.” Experts estimate that Tattooed Iceman died around 3300 BCE. The tattooed “map” followed the 12 main energy channels, or meridians, spread throughout the body. (Throughout these meridians are over 1,000 acupuncture points.) This meridian system is what acupuncturists use to treat patients. Unlike blood vessels or nerve fibres, the meridian system is not visible when you cut open a human body. Attempts have been made to view this body system using Thermogram Infrared Imaging. But at this point, the images have been too inconsistent to be relied on as proof. Like all energy, even electricity, just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Keep an open mind. 

What is electroacupuncture?

One variation of acupuncture involves sending light waves of electricity through the needles that are inserted in your body. No, it doesn’t hurt, though it may tingle a bit. (It feels about the same as how regular acupuncture would feel.)

Here’s how they do it: they insert a needle at a meridian point. They then insert a second needle close to the first one. Next, they connect both needles to electrodes which are hooked up to an electroacupuncture machine. The machine then sends a low voltage of electricity between the two needles. One session of electroacupuncture can last from 10 to 20 minutes.

Studies say this new type of acupuncture may be effective for people suffering from arthritis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other forms of chronic pain. Electroacupuncture is a fairly new treatment showing positive results in studies so far. It will be exciting to see what future research shows.

The practice of acupuncture in Australia is regulated and legal.

Aside from Australia, other countries like the U.S., U.K. China, Mexico, Singapore, and Japan have regulating bodies that standardise the practice of acupuncture. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises acupuncturists to complete at least 2,500 hours of training under a Master’s degree programme before they begin practicing. The Australian government requires a four-year bachelor's degree to become a qualified acupuncturist. 

With its long history, qualified practitioners, regulated standards, and the thumbs up from thousands of Aussies benefiting from treatment, maybe acupuncture is worth trying?  

Find out more about other natural and alternative medicine at Everything Alternative today!