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 Acupuncture: The History of Acupuncture in the West 
 

The History of Acupuncture in the West
Ear Acupuncture
Painful Points
The Future



The History of Acupuncture in the West
It is almost certain that acupuncture has been known and used in the West since the seventeenth century, but the first recorded use of acupuncture was by Dr. Berlioz at the Paris medical School in 1810. He treated a young woman suffering from abdominal pain. The Paris Medical Society described this as a somewhat reckless form of treatment, but Dr. Berlioz continued to use acupuncture, and claimed a great deal of success with it.

Acupuncture is not new to England, the first known British acupuncturist being John Churchill who, in 1821, published a series of results on the treatment of tympany and rheumatism with acupuncture. John Elliotson, a physician at St Thomas' Hospital, also use acupuncture widely in the early part of the nineteenth century. In 1823 acupuncture was mentioned in the first edition of the Lancet and in 1824 Dr. Elliotson began to use this method of treatment. In 1827 he published a series of results on the treatment of forty-two cases of rheumatism by acupuncture, and came to the conclusion that this was an acceptable and effective method of treatment for these complaints.

Ear Acupuncture
Those who traveled to China brought back information about body acupuncture. Ear acupuncture has been developed largely outside China. It is quite clear that there are some ancient Chinese manuscripts that mention the use of the external ear for acupuncture, but classical Chinese acupuncture applies to the body rather than the ear. The detailed ear map that is now being used by most acupuncturists was developed by Dr. Paul Nogier in France in the early 1950's.

Ear acupuncture was known to the ancient Egyptians. Ear cauteries have been found in the pyramids; these were used for burning or scarring specific ear points for conditions like sciatica. Hippocrates also mentions that the external ear could be used to treat conditions such as impotence.

In 1637 a Portuguese doctor, Zactus Lusitanus, described the use of auricular cautery for sciatica, and in 1717 Valsalva demonstrated the use of ear acupuncture for toothache. These early European and Middle Eastern experiments with ear acupuncture are a completely separate discovery; they have nothing to do with the growth and development of acupuncture in China. Sciatica seems to have been a disease that was particularly amenable to this crude form of acupuncture, and studies in the mid-nineteenth century indicate that 56 per cent of people who were treated with ear cautery for sciatica, obtained relief from their symptoms.

It was this crude form of acupuncture that interested Dr. Nogier in the early 1950's. Some of his patients had received ear cautery and obtained relief from pain, and therefore Dr. Nogier began to develop and investigate this form of treatment. He soon produced an ear map and since the early 1950's he has refined and developed this technique. One of his earliest findings was that if there was pain in the body then the equivalent part of the ear also became painful.

If the hand is painful then the part of the ear representing the hand also becomes painful when slight pressure is applied to the relevant part of the ear. If the painful ear point is punctured with a needle then the hand pain will be relieved. The picture of a pirate with a gold ear ring through his ear lobe is a well remembered childhood image; according to folklore the gold ring is supposed to increase the visual ability of the pirate, so that he can see ships to plunder before he is seen by them! Strangely enough, the ear ring usually seems to be placed in the eye point on the ear lobe.

(Excerpted from Acupuncture-Its Place in Western Medical Science)
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 About The Author
George Lewith MA, MRCGP, MRCPGeorge Lewith attended Trinity College, Cambridge and Westminster Hospital Medical School. He has worked as a Senior House Officer and Registrar within the Westminster and University College Hospital Teaching Groups in......more
 
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