Acupuncture in the Context of Traditional Chinese Medicine

  • N. S. Cherniack
  • E. P. Cherniack


Acupuncture is a method of treatment that involves the insertion of fine needles in the skin at crucial points believed to be of health significance [1–4]. The term acupuncture is European and was invented by Willem Ten Rhyne a Dutch physician in the early part of the seventeenth century. Acupuncture originated in China more than 4000 years ago as part of system of medicine that involves not just the insertion of needles, but in addition employs in addition therapeutic approaches such as moxibustion, cupping, herbal products, tuina and qiquong [3]. The first complete summary of Chinese medicine The Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Medicine appeared about 300 B.C., the time of the Warring States period in China [1, 3–5]. It deals not just with medical matters but also with philosophical concepts of the operation of the universe that melded Taoism with concepts of Confucianism. The Taoist concept is that health is the attainment of a harmony between opposing forces that exist in the natural world. Confucianism considers the body to be sacred and that it should remain intact in life and death. This latter concept hindered the development of surgery and promoted the use of noninvasive treatments of disease such as acupuncture [1, 4, 5]. The twelve volume Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion or Zhen Jiu Yi Jung was written almost 1800 years ago. With continued observation the description of acupuncture continued to evolve in China and grew more detailed. With the passage of time, additional acupuncture points and the connecting pathways between them were mapped. In the eleventh century Wei-Yi redefined the acupuncture points and compiled an Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion on the New Bronze Model [1, 4]. Li Shih-Chen in the sixteenth century wrote the classical Chinese Materia Medica and wrote a paper on Eight Extra Channels for acupuncture describing their course and indications for their use [1, 4]. With the arrival of Europeans acupuncture began to decline in prestige and many acupuncturist seemed to be no more than “pavement physicians” and Chinese medicine tended to concentrate more on massage and herbal preparations [1, 4, 5]. After the Communists took power in China there was a resurgence of national interest in acupuncture and it was proposed that traditional medicines be “scientized”. New research institutes were established which have led to the development of new ways of using and giving acupuncture [1, 4]. Acupuncture has even been used for anesthesia during surgery. In part because it is better during surgery to apply acupuncture away from the site of the incision, the idea that there were areas of the body in which there were homunculi like the ear which existed in ancient China and in other cultures like Egypt was refined and expanded [1, 4–7].


Chinese Medicine Traditional Chinese Medicine Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Alopecia Areata Acupuncture Point 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

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  • N. S. Cherniack
  • E. P. Cherniack

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