When it comes to our health and wellbeing we’ve come a long way.

We know more today about our physical and mental health, and the link between the two, than ever before.


And as we work hard to develop new medicines and treatments to common ailments, we are at the same time starting to learn more about ancient approaches to health, and gradually beginning to weave the two together.


Once dubbed ‘alternative’ therapies, approaches such as acupuncture are now viewed as ‘complementary’ to modern medicine, and although we still don’t fully understand how they work, we’ve become more open to these ancient techniques and the benefits they bring. 

Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world, and it’s easy to see why it’s still in use today: it brings with it a host of benefits and can be used for many common, and less common, health concerns. It’s been found to benefit both physical and mental health, and many who undergo acupuncture report it being more effective than modern treatment options.

Yet, despite all the positives, there are still misconceptions about the practice, and we wanted to share some key facts about one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world. 

A Brief History of Acupuncture

It’s estimated that acupuncture originated in China in around 100 BC. Having been around for so long, it naturally has a lot of history behind it and the belief systems around the practice have changed and evolved over time. At one point acupuncturists promoted the idea that effectiveness was dependent on the time of day or luna cycles. The popularity of acupuncture has had its peaks and troughs over the years, with it being the go-to treatment in ancient China for 300 years, before experiencing a decline in the 1200s.

The technique made its way over to Europe in the 17th century and the Americas by the 19th century thanks to the growth in international travel and trade. It’s probably fair to say that acupuncture has never experienced the same level of popularity in the west as it has in Asia, but it’s certainly gained traction over the centuries and is now widely practiced across the globe. 

And while it might not be the go-to treatment in the west, that’s certainly not to say it’s not popular. In fact, according to reports around 4 million people attend acupuncture treatments each year in the UK, and it’s the most popular complementary therapy in many countries including Switzerland and the USA.

What Can Acupuncture Be Used For?

Throughout all of its history, one thing that has remained consistent across time and geography is the belief that acupuncture is beneficial in releasing blocked ‘energy’ from the body and helps restore harmony both physically and mentally. The definition of ‘energy’ has evolved over time, and is interpreted differently by each culture. In the west, we are more comfortable thinking about ‘energy’ as the lymph and other fluids within the body, whereas in eastern cultures ‘energy’ is more of a spiritual term. 

And although science still can’t fully explain how or why acupuncture works, research shows that it does, and that it is particularly effective in the treatment of pain. 

In the UK it’s been endorsed by the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for migraines and chronic tension headaches. Research has shown that acupuncture is as effective, and in some cases more effective than prescription painkillers for these conditions. 

It’s also been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of chronic pain, joint pain, dental pain, or pain following surgery, although fewer studies have been conducted in these areas. 

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential uses of acupuncture, and over the centuries it has been used, to great effect, for a huge variety of conditions and health concerns. These include fertility issues, mobility problems, symptom management in severe conditions such as MS and cancer, improvements in energy levels, mental ill-health, and nausea.

For those who experience benefits from acupuncture, it often becomes their treatment of choice no matter what arises. And while it doesn’t claim to be able to fix everything, the fact that there remains so much we don’t fully understand about the treatment means there could be many more benefits that we’ve yet to uncover. And ultimately, when it comes to your wellbeing, it always comes down to what works for you, and whether that’s acupuncture alone or a combination of many different forms of therapy, as long as it helps you stay well and healthy that’s really all that matters. 

So that’s a very brief history and overview of Acupuncture – there’s a lot more know, and if we’ve piqued your interest, you can always talk to our acupuncture team to learn more.