1: Archaeological evidence shows that the first acupuncture needles were made of stone, while in the coastal areas of China, fish and animal bones were used. Due to the crudeness of the ‘needles’, treatments usually consisted of, thankfully, only one needle! Copper was used for the first metal acupuncture needles, followed by iron, gold and silver up to the stainless steel disposable needles used today.
2: Acupuncturists use heat as well as needles. Indeed, the use of heat on specific locations on the body probably came before acupuncture in history. Archaeologists have discovered manuscripts from Bronze Age tombs in China that record this practice.
3: It is thought that acupuncture may have evolved from the practise of bloodletting which was common to nearly all primitive cultures, China being no exception. Medial texts from the Han Dynasty (200 BC) show detailed pictures of the vascular system, and the Nei Jing, a classical text on Chinese Medicine, indicates the transition from bleeding an area to needling a specific point.
4: Historically it was common in Japan for blind people to train as acupuncturists and traditional massage therapists. In the 17th century, Waichi Sugiyama, a blind Japanese acupuncturist devised the small guide tube we still use today for painlessly and easily inserting needles.
5: Acupuncturists may also use a traditional Chinese peasant medicine called ‘Gua Sha’. Gua Sha is a scraping technique that highlights and clears congestion, stiffness and pain. Studies have shown Gua Sha to be a potent anti-inflammatory treatment having an impressive effect on inflammatory conditons, asthma, hepatitis, fever, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms and muscle pain.
6: While it’s common knowledge that acupuncture is useful for pain, many people are unaware that it is also beneficial for mental-emotional conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. A 2014 trial comparing acupuncture to counselling and usual care for depression with comorbid pain, found a reduction in both depression and pain to be most marked in the acupuncture group.
7: Needling anywhere on the body is surprisingly powerful. Modern research shows that needling into muscles at random is in itself an effective treatment for pain and other conditions. Of course, acupuncturists make a careful diagnosis to decide the best places on the body to treat, and the research confirms that this is more effective than random needling. Indeed, for conditions like back pain and headache we know for sure that acupuncture is as effective as common drugs, without the side effects.
8: The Acupuncture Evidence Project, a large-scale review of the evidence base, completed in Australia in 2017, has found acupuncture to be effective for 177 conditions. Most notably mentioned are: chemotherapy induced side effects, seasonal allergies, chronic low back pain, migraine prevention, chronic headaches, knee osteoarthritis and post-operative nausea and pain.
9: While ‘needles’ and ‘children’ don’t typically seem like a good combination, paediatric acupuncture is widely used alongside usual paediatric care, and to limit the amount of medication given to kids. Needles are usually only inserted for seconds, with the mini-patient barely noticing them, and non-needle treatments can also be given.
10: Acupuncturists with 5 element training will incorporate some more unusual diagnostic methods into their consultation. Complexion colour, the sound of a patient’s voice, body smell, and even the colour of the clothing a patient prefers can give useful indications for treatment.