Few people realize how long acupuncture has been practiced by physicians in the West. Here is an article published in the Lancet in 1837 by a Dr Wansbrough on the immediate effects of acupuncture for low back pain in a patient who had been bedridden for 6 weeks and unresponsive to other treatment.
He wonders if acupuncture is not more widely used within the medical profession because the practice is beneath them or because it doesn’t pay well…
“LUMBAGO TREATED BY ACUPUNCTURATION.
To the Editor of THE LANCET.
SIR:-Mr. J. H., of Dartford, was confined, during six weeks, to his bed and room, by a severe attack of lumbago, for which he was treated secundem artem, i.e., leeched, cupped, and blistered, taking calomel, opium, colchicum, &c.,&c.,&c.,in all legitimate forms, but with none effect.
I found him suffering from a fixed pain in the longissimi dorsi, extending to one-third of their length from the sacrum, the almost invariable seat of lumbago. I waited some time for the medical gentleman who was attending Mr. H., and on his arrival proceded to perform the following operation:
Three needles were introduced into the left muscle, (where the pain was greatest), and suffered to remain during about five minutes The right muscle was operated on in the same manner. Very little pain was experienced I should say, comparatively none.
Mr. H. immediately afterwards dressed himself, and walked a distance of upwards of seven hundred yards, to the great delight and astonishment of himself and his relatives, who were amazed at the wonderful effect of this simple remedy ; and its effects certainly are wonderful; they require the evidence of ocular demonstration to be accredited to their full extent. Why, I would ask, is this simple remedy not more resorted to in those chronic, fixed, muscular pains, (and often in acute cases), which defy the power of medicaments, and often compel the puzzled practitioner to pass his paralyzed patients, if not to the “Houris,’ at least to « Mahomed’s paradise of steam and shampooing,” to soothe their sufferings in the saline sudatories of the sable prophet 66 with what benefit they may?” Is it because the remedy of acupuncturation is infra dig., or is it because it does not pay? I cannot for a moment indulge in the latter supposition, and the former is unjust. I can only say I was so well paid by Mr. H., that I should have no objection to a few such patients “prore nata.”
In former papers* I directed the attention of the profession to acupuncture; I also published several consecutive cases, in which 6 6 the crooked were made straight, and the lame to walk.” In one case the sight was restored. I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
T, W. WANSBROUGH.
Fulham, April 22, 1837.”