Acupuncture was first used in China, probable about 2000 years ago. When acupuncture first arrived in the West in the 17th century, the principles which the Chinese had used to explain its actions were at variance with current scientific knowledge of the body’s structure and function. This led to the rejection of acupuncture by the medical profession in the UK, although individual practitioners adopted it with enthusiasm, usually needling the point of maximal tenderness to treat musculoskeletal pain. Acupuncture was more generally accepted in France and Germany, where the pioneering British physician Felix Mann encountered it in the 1950s. He then taught acupuncture to other medical practitioners and organised regular meetings in London, from which the British Medical Acupuncture Society, BMAS, emerged in 1980. The tradition of biannual scientific meetings has continued since then. The Society has many connections with prominent acupuncturists internationally and is a founder member of the International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques (ICMART), and has hosted two world congresses. The Society was involved in standardisation of the meridian nomenclature published in 1990. The Society’s scientific journal, Acupuncture in Medicine, was founded in 1981 and has gained international recognition, being indexed on several databases. The Society has established regular teaching courses at different levels, which lead to professional qualifications of Certificate and Diploma. The membership is now open to different health professionals, has grown steadily and now stands at nearly 2500. The Society is administered from offices in Cheshire and London.
Many individual members have contributed to the Society’s characteristic Western ‘medical’ approach to acupuncture in which needling is seen as a form of neuromuscular stimulation that owes little to traditional meridians or points. The Society has shown a particular interest in acupuncture for myofascial trigger point pain. Members of the Society have contributed to the evidence base of acupuncture with several books, clinical trials and reviews. The Society is optimistic that it will have an increasingly important role in promoting the use and scientific evaluation of acupuncture for the public benefit.
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