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    What is Acupuncture?

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    Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to certain places on the skin, called acupuncture points (or acupoints), to cause a change in the physical functions of the body. The use of acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is a medical system that has been used for thousands of years to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. 

    Acupuncture is based on the belief that "Qi" (vital energy) flows through the body along a network of paths, called meridians (12 primary meridians in our body). Qi is said to affect a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical  condition. According to TCM, Qi has two forces, yin and yang. Yin and yang are opposite forces that work together to form a whole. The forces of yin and yang depend on each other and are made from each other in an unending cycle, such as hot and cold, day and night, and health and disease. Nothing is ever all yin or all yang, both exist in all things, including people. Many of the major organs of the body are believed to be yin-yang pairs that must be in balance to be healthy. When a person's yin and yang are not in balance, Qi can become blocked. Blocked Qi causes pain, illness, or other health problems.

    According to TCM, qi can be unblocked by using acupuncture at certain places on the skin, called acupoints. Acupoints are places where the meridians come to the surface of the body. There are more than 360 acupoints on the human body, with specific acupoints for each condition being treated. In acupuncture treatment, stainless steel needles, usually ranging from 0.22 mm to 0.25 mm in diameter, are inserted into relevant acupuncture points to stimulate the affected meridians.

    Acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, in this way, acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body's natural painkillers, such as endorphins, to be released.

    TCM uses acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, meditation,  physical exercise, and massage to restore health by unblocking qi and correcting the balance of yin and yang within the person.

    Most acupuncturists in the United States practice acupuncture according to the Traditions of Chinese Medicine. However, there are other types of acupuncture, including some used for medical treatment, that have different theories about meridians and acupoint locations.

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    Brief History

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    The Chinese tradition of acupuncture dates back at least 4000 years. The oldest known medical book in China (second century BC) describes the use of needles to treat medical problems. The use of the treatment spread to other Asian countries and to other regions of The World, including to Europe by the 1700s. In the United States, acupuncture has been used for about 200 years.

    This practice gained attention in the United States (US) in 1972 when a New York Times reporter wrote about having received acupuncture while traveling with President Nixon in China.

    In 1975, the first US acupuncture school (The New England School of Acupuncture) was opened in Watertown, Massachusetts.

    Research on acupuncture began in the United States in 1976. Twenty years later, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the  acupuncture needle as a medical devise.

    In 1982, the profession founded the Accreditation Commission for Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) which, in 1990, became recognized by the US Department of Education as an agency for accreditation at the master's degree level.

    In 1997, the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement declaring acupuncture to be an effective treatment for certain medical conditions.

    There are roughly 10,500 licensed acupuncturists in the US providing about 9- 12 million patient visits annually. Between 1997 and 2007 the number of practicing Acupuncturists within USA has tripled.

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    Different Types of Acupuncture

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    In the United States, several different acupuncture styles are practiced in addition to TCM. These include
    • Japanese acupuncture (e.g., Meridian therapy),
    • English acupuncture (e.g., Five element or Traditional Acupuncture),
    • French acupuncture (e.g., French energetic acupuncture),
    • Korean acupuncture (e.g., Constitutional Acupuncture), and
    • American Medical acupuncture.