WHO CONFAB FINDS AGREEMENT

Acupuncture point standard nailed down

by Yukiko Maeda

Kyodo News

Acupuncturists from Japan, China and South Korea ironed out long-standing differences over the precise location of acu-points during a recent conference held under the auspices of the World Health Organization.

With the successful results of the conference on the international standardization of acu-points — or “tsubo” as they are known in Japan — the practitioners hope that acupuncture and moxibustion will become more popular in the United States and Europe.

These therapies are intended to trigger positive physiological changes by stimulating the body surface.

Acupuncture uses special thin needles that are inserted into acu-points up to a few centimeters. Moxibustion involves burning moxa, a material made of dried tansy, on the skin above the acu-points.

Acupuncture is believed to have originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. It was introduced to Japan via the Korean Peninsula during the sixth century.

Both therapies have been mainly practiced in East Asia as part of traditional medicine, but some U.S. and European medical associations began using the treatments after the effects of acupuncture anesthesia became known in the 1970s.

Tadashi Yano, president of the Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, said people have started to take a second look at Oriental medicine, which utilizes the healing power of the human body, in line with a growing “back to nature” trend.

The trend, which has also made people more interested in protecting the environment, is a reflection of “increasing distrust of modern medicine following a series of scandals involving drug-induced suffering,” he said.

There are 361 acu-points in the human body. In 1989, the WHO standardized their international names.

But there was no agreement concerning their precise location until participants reached an agreement at the WHO conference held in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.

While Japan, China and South Korea each boast a long history of administering acupuncture and moxibustion, the location of 92 acu-points differed slightly among the three countries.

At the request of the WHO, the three countries held a conference for the first time in 2003 for the purpose of standardization.

Since then, acupuncturists and other experts from the three countries have held a number of meetings in an effort to determine official acu-point locations that are consistent with tradition, using 59 classic books as references.

The discussions narrowed the number of unresolved acu-point locations to six.

The matter was finally resolved during the Tsukuba meeting, when participants from Japan, China, South Korea, six other countries and the WHO decided the exact location of the remaining locations — found in the hand, face and hip — by a majority vote.

The decision was met by cheers and applause when it was announced, participants said.

As a result, the descriptions for the location of some 40 acu-points will be rewritten in Japan. Their official locations differ from what was previously believed by a few millimeters to around 10 cm. Not only textbooks but also the standards used in national exams for acupuncturists will now be reviewed.

Shuichi Katai, a professor at the Tsukuba University of Technology who represented Japan during the discussions, said the participants have worked on standardization by sharing the feeling of creating “something that will prevail for 100 years.”

Standardization will make it easier to compare data concerning acu-points and the participants are glad to have built “a foundation for the future development of acupuncture and moxibustion,” he said.

Katai said he will try to verify the effectiveness of stimulating the unified points through various methods.