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Acupuncture l Great Wall l Mountaineering l Paleontology

Now widely accepted in the Western world as an effective alternate remedy, this form of traditional Chinese medicine has been traced as far back as 2000 years ago and has over three million practitioners worldwide today. Acupuncture fundamentally involves the insertion of fine needles into acupuncture points (of which there are at least 2000) that lie just beneath the surface of the skin. In older times the needles were made from bamboo, gold or silver. Nowadays the needles are made of stainless steel and mild electrical currents are sometimes applied to the needles. Moxibustion, which is the use of smoldering herbs to warm the acupuncture points, is also used as a supplement in the treatment.

The traditional beliefs that lie behind the practice of acupuncture are that the acupuncture points on the body each correspond to a particular organ, joint, gland or part of the body. Meridians connect these points to the organs or areas and stimulation of the acupuncture points can either block the meridians or, conversely, release blockages of energy flowing through these meridians, which is the cause of ailment.

Modern scientific thought, however, does not fully comprehend nor accept these traditional explanations, believing one should get to the point instead of fudging the issue with anecdotal reports of success. It is believed that acupuncture points are not fixed entities and that they are merely areas where the nervous system is signaling a need for stimulation. Such points are therefore not selected on the basis of energy imbalances but on the basis that the trigger points correspond to the nervous systemsí need for stimulation. Meridians have been explained as nerve pathways that converge on the spinal cord. Stimulation of acupuncture points is therefore an effort to stimulate the nervous system into a function.

Whatever the theories are behind acupuncture, it has been empirically proven to be effective. Treatment can be sought at practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine all over China and even in the hospitals of major cities that train foreigners in the technique. Some upmarket hotels provide acupuncture services in their in-house clinics and needles can even be purchased for your personal use. Advice should be sought from a practitioner on which type of needle to purchase since there is a confusing variety of needles available.

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