The Needle Treatment
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of "encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve bodily function" (1) that dates back as far as 4,700 years ago. Now for the past 25 years it has appeared in the U.S. as a popular form of alternative medicine, and it is "a licensed and regulated HealthCare profession in about half the states in the U.S." (3). It is most often called upon for problems such as lower back pain, migraines, arthritis, and additional non-fatal aches and pains. Some people say it works, others are still skeptical. Since this method does not seem to be based on "actual science", is it merely a placebo effect? Can a medical practice dated nearly five millenniums ago still prove to be valid?
When acupuncture was created, some of the medical concepts it employed were relatively new; there were not many falsified stories for it to build off from. In fact, "acupuncture is said to have been theorized... by Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine, who also documented his theories on the heart, circulation, and pulse over 400 years before Europeans had any concept about them" (1). Since then, Europeans and Asians alike have encountered centuries of medical dilemmas and successes. Over time, hypotheses emerge and are either disproved or continue to live on as part of scientific discourse and medical practice. For this reason, most old-fashioned treatments no longer hold true when compared to methods cultivated within the great wealth of knowledge attributed to medicine today – not because we are smarter now or are more civilized, but because the field of medicine has accumulated so much more experience and has improved methods to be "less wrong" countless times. So, why has acupuncture not been bettered or disproved after all this time? Is it perhaps a perfect form or treatment? Probably not. But, let us look more closely at the acupuncture treatment to understand its unlikely longevity in the medical world.
First, the patient must relax in order to prevent fainting or nausea; the most common side-effects of acupuncture, often due to nervousness. The practitioner will insert fine, hair-like needles into the body "at specific points shown as effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of two thousand years" (2). The needles go about ¼ to one inch deep, depending on the age and size of the patient and the location of pain on the body (2). The insertion of needles is sometimes accompanied by "heat or electrical stimulation at these specific [acupuncture] points" (1).
The process is relatively painless when done correctly. The patient "should feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation... In Chinese, acupuncture is bu tong, painless. Some Western cultures may categorize these sensations as types of pain. In any case, if you experience any discomfort, it is usually mild" (2). However, if the...