Published: August 9, 2009
Remember Otzi? Heâ€™s the 5,000-year-old mummy discovered a few years ago in the Italian Alps.
Otzi has turned out to be an astonishing find, revealing volumes about how mankind existed in ancient eras. He was discovered accidentally by hikers after a recent thaw had revealed a portion of his frozen body. Thinking they had found a recent corpse, they went on about their way and later reported the find to authorities. Imagine their thoughts when they learned that the body was determined to have been in that impromptu, icy tomb for at least 5,000 years!
Probably no other human has ever undergone as much scientific examination and been the subject of so much speculation in history. (Well, except maybe Michael Jackson.) To illustrate the detail that has been revealed about his last days on earth, analysis has been carried out to study the DNA of pollen grains found within his digestive tract to see where his last meal might have come from.
Although scientific testing can reveal what type of plants he might have eaten and what valley they might have been gathered from, some things are still left to debate.
Of particular interest to some investigators were the 57 tattoo markings that have been revealed on Otziâ€™s body. Initially the assumption was that the tattoos may have been applied for the same reasons people obtain tattoos today. Some wondered whether the markings were simply adornment. Maybe they signified ritualistic accomplishments or were indicators of belonging to a certain family or group.
Finally, someone made the astute observation that the markings were in places consistent with acupuncture points.
A consultation was arranged with an acupuncturist to inquire about the locations of the tattoos. It was determined that the points illustrated by Otziâ€™s tattoos are points commonly used in acupuncture to treat arthritis of the spine, hips, knees and ankles, and possibly stomach pain.
Examination of the body had already determined that Otzi did in fact have arthritic degeneration of the spine, hips, knees and ankles. It had also been determined that he was infected with intestinal parasites, something that could have caused him great abdominal distress.
Could it be possible that the markings were the result of an a treatment like acupuncture that actually engraved the points as they were treated? Or perhaps the marks were essentially a guide to self treatment â€¦ â€śPress these points when you hurtâ€ť?
But wait a minute. Acupuncture is commonly thought to have been developed in China approximately 3,000 years after Otzi died. If thatâ€™s true, how could this European Neolithic hunter have been treated with acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese acupuncture was developed by around 300 BC as evidenced by the Yellow Emperorâ€™s authoritative texts about the subject. In fact, the Chinese authors of those early texts did an extraordinary job of gathering and collating a tremendous amount of information about herbal and holistic healing as well as using acupuncture.
The Chinese method of using acupuncture had been developed as a part of what is now referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); an elaborate system of integrating the practice of acupuncture with the use of medicinal herbs, lifestyle modifications, and other effective treatments. Modern clinical research has proven the effectiveness of many of the ancient traditional remedies. The venerable Chinese texts are still viewed as remarkable in their thoroughness and the consideration of the patientâ€™s whole health picture, rather than simply a single presenting symptom.
Although acupuncture seems new to many Americans, it has been used to treat a wide range of health concerns for thousands of years. Acupuncture as a part of TCM is about 2,000 years old, but it is not beyond imagination that acupuncture or a similar treatment could have been widely practiced for thousands of years.
Acupuncture is certainly helpful for arthritis, joint problems, headache (including migraine), back pain, bladder, sinus problems, neurological symptoms, digestive issues and many other conditions. Sometimes results are remarkable. This ancient treatment has been around for thousands of years for good reason: It works. Exactly where and when it originated, we may never know.
Next week: 10 great tips to reduce arthritis pain.
Dr. Mark Kestner