Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts

by Tobey Williamson, L.Ac.

What do Ötzi, the 5,300-Year-Old Iceman & General Douglas MacArthur Have to Do with Stopping your Pain and Returning you to Wellness?

Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts, Good Hearth in Rockland, MaineTobey Williamson offers Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Rockland, Maine

“Well,” you say, “that’s a weird question. What could the mummified remains of a 'wealthy caveman' discovered in 1991 emerging from a retreating glacier in the Italian Alps, and the American general responsible for occupying Japan after WWII possibly have to do with me?" 

“Come on,” I hear you say next. “My options for stopping pain and improving my overall well-being have nothing to do with historical figures – mummified or not!”

Sit tight, I’ve got a story for you.

Ötzi, the 5,300-Year-Old Iceman

It took 25 years of studying Ötzi the Iceman’s leathery, but intact skin to locate and verify his total of 61 tattoos.  Nearly 90% of these ‘x,’ 'line,' or ‘cross’ shaped, black marks fall on or within millimeters of well-established acupuncture points and meridians.  Many are located on the Urinary Bladder meridian, which runs along the spine and through many areas my patients often report as painful: low back, hips, knees and ankles. Interestingly, in Ötzi’s specific case, the joints near the tattoos also showed signs of degeneration, suggesting pain.

Another important idea for our story is the theory that these marks were made by rubbing charcoal into small incisions made in the skin, perhaps as a form of therapy.  To Eastern medical practitioners like me, this sounds just like a very primitive practice of acupuncture and moxibustion.Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine
My Modern Day Acupuncture Clinic in Rockland, ME: No Mummies or Sharp Burnt Sticks Anywhere in Sight

Still with me?  OK, let Ötzi’s therapeutic tattoos resonate in your mind for a sec while we discuss General MacArthur’s role in our story…

General Douglas MacArthur in Post World War II Japan

First, I’ll agree with you. That tattooing practice described above as similar to acupuncture and moxibustion? Sounds barbaric.  Actually, some folks probably still consider modern Eastern medicine and think the same thing. Sticking needles into people and burning a refined herb directly on their skin is an odd way to heal them.  This is likely what Gen. MacArthur was thinking when he set out to ban these practices and "bring Japan into the civilized world" after they lost WWII. 

Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts, Good Hearth in Rockland, MainePremium Gold Moxa Made in Japan. Like Fine Wine or Fine Whiskey:
Carefully Processed & Aged for 10 Years.

But, the Japanese people had other ideas. Though completely vanquished by the newest in modern weaponry, they decided that protecting their traditional medicine was an important battle to fight.  So important, in fact, that they were willing to stand up to the occupiers, who by the way, just may have had a few more atomic bombs prepared. Japanese acupuncturists and moxibustionists joined up with physicians and scientists to mount a massive campaign and legal battle to explain the benefits of their ancient wellness practices to the US Army.

What are the benefits of acupuncture and moxibustion? There are actually a lot of them – too many to list.  But, here are a few: stops pain, improves blood quality, builds immunity, reduces inflammation, balances mood, and harmonizes complexly interacting organ systems that must function well together. 

Here is some information from Japanese investigations into the effects of moxibustion on blood quality:

Tobey Williamson offers Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Rockland, Maine

Overall, acupuncture and Japanese direct moxibustion support wellness and have stood the test of time.  Ötzi knew that 5000+ years ago when he lived in a cave. The Japanese knew it when they stood up for their cultural heritage and taught the US Army about their medicine. And now so do you.   


Discover Magazine
North American Journal of Oriental Medicine
Acupuncture Today

A slightly different version previously published in The Courier-Gazette Wellness 2017 Guide