Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing known. Its recorded history goes back 2000 years, with strong prehistorical evidence going back to the Bronze Age. Only recently, however, has it gained traction in Western societies.
Theories and Treatments Acupuncturists’ ideas regarding health and illness bear even less relationship to Western medicine than do curanderos’ ideas. Like all traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is based on the concept of chi. The con- cept has no Western equivalent but refers to the vital life force or energy. Health occurs when chi flows freely through the body, balanced between yin and yang, the opposing forces in nature. Because any combination of problems in the mind, body, spirit, social environment, or physical environment can restrict chi, treatment must be holistic.
Following this theory, traditional Chinese healers consider both symptoms and diagnosis unimportant and focus instead on unblocking chi. Acupuncture is based on the theory that chi runs through the body to the different organs in channels known as meridians, which have no Western equivalents. To cure a prob- lem in the colon, for example, acupuncturists apply needles to the index finger, which they believe connects to the colon via a meridian. In this way, they believe, they can stimulate an individual’s chi and direct it wherever it is needed. Acu- puncturists decide on treatment through taking a complete history, palpating the patient’s abdomen, measuring his or her blood pressure, and reading the 12 pulses recognized by Chinese medicine.