The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been practiced over thousands of years in China and still plays an important role nowadays, nevertheless, most of doctrines of it are not supported by modern science or evidence-based medicine. The Chinese medicine is bit like religion, but more than that, very often practically effective. For instance, acupuncture probably is among the earliest medical applications of Neuroscience.
Date back to the Neolithic or even earlier in the Stone Age, ancient Chinese people started to use sharpen stones, Bian stones, to human body in cervical spondylosis or low back pain and later evolved into acupuncture. Acupuncture is a series of procedures involving the penetration of thin, solid, metallic needles to stimulate specific points on the body. The whole process typically lasts for around 30min, but sometimes the needles are left in the ear up to 3 days. Needles are always made of stainless steel and are disposable, with a length between 13 to 130mm and diameter between 0.16 and 0.46mm. An experienced practitioner is able to insert the needles without making any pain.
Fig. 1: The treatment of acupuncture on the patient’s back.
Fig. 2: The symbolization of Yin and Yang.
What can acupuncture help with? The World Health Organization has published a list of diseases and symptoms for which acupuncture has been proved to be an effective treatment, including headache, stroke, depression etc. And many of these diseases are related to our nervous system.
How can the ordinary needles have such magic effects? The traditional Chinese theory of acupuncture is based on Qi, which is the energy flow through the body. The disruption of Qi will cause imbalance between Yin and Yang, resulting in sickness or weakness, and acupuncture can restore the Qi in the body, then health will return.
In science, it has been observed that many acupuncture points are located very close to cluster of periphery nerves in the skin. Stimulation on these points by needles can cause multiple biological responses, either locally, i.e., at or close to the site of application, or at a distance, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery, thus relieving the symptoms.
Maybe it’s not really necessary to argue if acupuncture is scientific or not. The beauty of acupuncture reflects in the utilization of Chinese philosophy in the medicine. Application of philosophy can give a life to philosophy, after thousands of years, still fresh in our daily life.