The Origin of Acupuncture in New York

Like most Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture in New York originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Although there are records of acupuncture being used hundreds of years ago in Europe, it was during the second half of the twentieth century it began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient’s skin at specific points on the body – the needles are inserted to various depths. We are not sure how acupuncture works scientifically. However, we do know that it does have some therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which gi vital energy runs. There is no histological, anatomical or scientific proof that these meridians or acupuncture points exist. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists. Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture – a clinical study involves a placebo (sham product) compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise a sham acupuncture control that one can compare to proper acupuncture. While some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, others have indicated that there are some real benefits

James Reston, who worked for the New York Times had his appendix removed so he went through appendectomy during a visit to China in 1971. After surgery he experienced some discomfort and was treated for this with acupuncture. He was astonished to find that the acupuncture treatment helped his discomfort tremendously. He subsequently wrote an article that year titled “Now, About My Operation in Peking”.

Many believe this article triggered intense interest in acupuncture in the USA. Reston wrote that the acupuncturist “inserted three long, thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow and below my knees and manipulated them…That sent ripples of pain racing through my limbs and, at least, had the effect of diverting my attention from the distress in my stomach. Meanwhile, Doctor Li lit two pieces of an herb called ai, which looked like the burning stumps of a broken cheap cigar, and held them close to my abdomen while occasionally twirling the needles into action. All of this took about 20 minutes, during which I remembered thinking that it was rather a complicated way to get rid of gas… but there was a noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter.”

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