Acupuncture has been known in the West since the second half of the seventeenth century, and interest in it has waxed and waned since then. The modern revival of interest dates from President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.

Much excitement was generated by claims that it was possible to carry out major surgery using acupuncture as the sole analgesic. At about the same time, the discovery of the opioid peptides appeared to provide a physiological basis for acupuncture and this helped to make it more scientifically respectable. Another shaft of illumination came from the gate theory of pain put forward by R. Melzack and P.D. Wall.

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