Magazine: Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a treatment for pain and illness. Thin needles are positioned just under the surface of the skin at special nerve centres around the body.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercise.

The person who takes medicine must recover twice, once from the disease and once from the medicine. William Osler, MD

If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity. OW Holmes, Professor of Medicine, Harvard University

Alternative medicine has become much more popular in the West in recent years. It seems that people are becoming increasingly worried about the side effects of drugs, and are turning to treatments such as homeopathy, osteopathy, yoga, reflexology and acupuncture to complement, or sometimes even replace, Western medicine.

An event in my life three or four years ago made me examine my own attitudes towards alternative medicine. After suffering from insomnia for a few months, I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted. A trip to my GP, and attempts at self-medication with nightly doses of Guinness and whisky, failed to bring any relief from my condition. My friend Tony, who was studying acupuncture at a college near London at the time, suggested that I visit an acupuncturist. Since I have a healthy fear of needles from waiting in line for vaccinations in gloomy school corridors, I was reluctant to take his advice, but by this time I was so tired that I was prepared to try almost anything.

I made an appointment with the only acupuncturist in my area, and after another nearly sleepless night turned up at his room in the local alternative health centre the following morning. After taking my pulse, looking at my tongue and asking a few questions about my diet and lifestyle, the acupuncturist correctly deduced that I was worn out. (I found this extremely impressive since he hadn’t asked me why I had come to see him.) He then inserted a needle in my right foot between my first and second toe and, despite my anxiety, I fell asleep immediately. At the time I considered the whole experience to be close to a miracle.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is based on the idea that energy flows through the human body along 12 lines or meridians. These meridians end up at organs in the body, and illness is the result of a blockage of the energy flow to these organs. To remove the blockage, an acupuncturist inserts very fine needles into the body at points along the meridians. This stimulates the flow of energy and restores the patient’s health.

What is the history of acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese medicine has been practised for around 3,000 years in the Far East, but is relatively recent in the West, and acupuncture only really became well known in the West in the 1970s as people began to travel more frequently between the two areas of the world.

A significant event in the history of acupuncture came in 1971, when a journalist from the New York Times had his appendix removed in China, when on a trip to the country with Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State for the USA. Surgeons used acupuncture to deaden the pain of the operation, which greatly impressed Kissinger.

Although at first doctors in the West were often sceptical of the medical value of acupuncture, in the last few years it has become more established as an alternative to Western medical treatments, since clinical tests have shown that acupuncture is effective for a number of conditions.

What can acupuncture be used to treat?

In the Far East acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of complaints, and is also used as a preventative medicine, since it is thought to increase the body’s resistance to infection. In the West, the treatment is often used to relieve headaches, dental pain, back pain and arthritis, and to treat depression, asthma, stress, high blood pressure and anxiety.

Who uses acupuncture?

Since acupuncture is known to be effective against pain, it is not surprising that many sportspeople have experimented with acupuncture when fighting injury. Martina Hingis, the famous tennis player, had a wrist injury cured through treatment, and English Premier Division football club Bolton Wanderers employs an acupuncturist to keep its squad in good physical condition. While in Korea for the World Cup in 2002, soojichim, a Korean form of acupuncture, was very popular with the German football team.

Cherie Blair, a well-known human rights lawyer and the wife of the British Prime Minister, was recently spotted wearing an acupuncture needle in her ear, suggesting that she uses the treatment to cope with stress. The Queen of the United Kingdom is also interested in acupuncture, although she doesn’t use the treatment herself – she and many of her family rely on another alternative medical treatment, homeopathy, to keep them healthy.

What are the risks?

Finally, if you do decide to visit an acupuncturist, it is important that you check that they are qualified and registered to practise acupuncture. In the past, some people have experienced allergic reactions, broken needles and even punctured lungs while being treated, although this is very uncommon.



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Upper intermediate: B2


Your texts

Daniele writes “The topic of alternative medicine is a very interesting one because for the time being more and more people get ill due to several reasons. In fact, all the time modern society has to cope with very dangerous and/or stressful situations, which seriously jeopardise our lives every day. I think that it is the price we all have to pay for living in a technological world, and probably we need to be healed in a different way. I do think that people too many times abuse medicines, while we all should not underrate the side effects of such treatments. Though I completely trust traditional medicine too, if correctly used.Acupuncture is a very effective way to defeat some diseases, since it has been used for several centuries, especially by far-east ancient cultures.The fact that it does not have as many side effects as the traditional medicine is definitely a very good reason to consider it a reliable alternative in the complex sector of medicine. Nevertheless, I do agree with the author of the article, when he reminds us of the absolute importance of choosing a highly qualified professional acupuncturist, otherwise the effects could be worse than the illness itself!”

Inna Vigolko writes “I have never used alternative medicine and I had heard almost nothing about it, but I think that alternative medicine isn't proven and I think that it is medicine based on illogical things. When we are born, we live in an atmosphere which has no influence on us - that's why I don't believe any energy comes through our body and definitely a needle won’t help us by taking away the bad energy. Once my mother went to an alternative doctor to cure her migraines. It was written that the doctor cured the wife of a famous writer so my grandmother wanted my mom to go there. The doctor pricked my mom's fingers and it didn't help her at all.”

Mohammad Reza Shaygani writes “Alternative medicine is good for people who do not use chemical medicines. Every one who uses drugs increases his or her body’s resistance to medicines. Of course I agree with the use of a few methods of chemical medicine such as vaccination and so on. But in acupuncture how we can trust to the acupuncturist to be qualified.”

Beata Chmura writes “I have never used acupuncture, but I often use homeopathy - I think it can help with some diseases. And the most important thing for me is that doctors who use homeopathy are more careful about prescribing antibiotics. It prevents many damages to our organisms.”

When  I was forty years old, I had a big pain in my shoulder. And I can't even lift  my right arm. It took more than three monts to relieve the pain naturally.  And six months laterI had an pain in my left shoulder again. My wife adviced me to go to the acupuncturist. He inserted needles on my shoulder but I felt no pain. I went to his office once a week for one month an he removed my pain.

An interesting listening and task on acupuncture and some other types of alternative medicine such as ‘yoga and reflexology’ as a complement to more traditional/ western medicine.  Good to consider both types of treatment and choose how they might work best. Sound advice when considering a credible professional too. Thank you, and very best wishes.

Nice article. I am convinced that acupuncture is an effective treatment although I have never given it a try. I liked the idea of making that the acupuncturist is a registered person to practice acupuncture. As a pharmacist, I am sure about the bad side effects that chemical medications cause to the human body. I have always been surprised by those side effects and how we treat a problem and in the same time cause the patient another problem via the same medication!
The article was in support of acupuncture as an effective treatment and me too.


  I just wonder why the answer of question no 12 is true because the text support the idea that though the Queen of England is interested in this subject, she does not use it for her own.As the text says the following....
The Queen of England is also interested in acupuncture, although she doesn’t use the treatment herself – she and many of her family rely on another alternative medical treatment, homeopathy, to keep them healthy.

the first quote from "William Osler" was great. It's a perfect way to start an article with a beautiful quotation,besides it enhance the understanding of he reader from the article I believe.

how can  i start with this web????guide me exactly please

Thank you very much indeed, British Council Team. This is a really interesting article! I want to know more for acupuncture, massage ect. These are exciting topics.

A good article, I like the beginning quotation too. I believe acupuncture can work and help patients in healing on some of the diseases, but i have never given a try of it, may be because i am scare of seeing many needles to be inserted into my skin at one time, and also worry because many unprofessional acupuncturists are practicing in the market now.

Why I can't see the exercises?