Acupuncture is the practice of puncturing the skin with needles at certain anatomical points in the body to relieve specific symptoms associated with many diseases. The anatomical points (acupuncture points) are thought to have certain electrical properties, which affect chemical neurotransmitters in the body.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical practices in the world. Originated in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture gained attention in this country in the 1970s, when China and the US opened relations. The practice has been growing in popularity since.
According to theories of traditional Chinese medicine, the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected via pathways, or meridians. These pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced "chee") through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow can cause disease. Acupuncture may correct these imbalances when applied at acupuncture points and improve the flow of Qi.
Acupuncture theories today are based on extensive laboratory research, and have become widely known and accepted. In addition, controlled studies have shown evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions. Approximately 10,000 certified acupuncturists practice in the US today. Not all certified acupuncturists are physicians, but, currently, about one-third of certified acupuncturists are US physicians who have incorporated acupuncture into their medical practices.
Acupuncture is not for everyone. If you choose to see an acupuncturist, discuss it with your physician first and find a practitioner who is licensed with appropriate training and credentials. Acupuncture is generally performed with metallic, solid, and hair-thin needles. Patients report different feelings associated with acupuncture, but most feel minimal pain as the needle is inserted. Acupuncture makes some people report feeling energized by the treatment, while others say they feel relaxed.