From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

Acupuncture (Latin: acus, "needle," and pungere, "prick;" Standard Mandarin: zhēn jiǔ, 針灸) is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting and manipulating fine needles into specific points on the body, known as "acupuncture points." Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years in China and other East Asian countries and is now used worldwide as a complementary or alternative medical treatment.


Theory and Principles[edit | edit source]

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on the concept of qi (pronounced "chee"), which is considered to be the body's vital energy or life force. Acupuncture aims to regulate and balance the flow of qi through pathways called meridians. There are 12 primary meridians and numerous secondary meridians, each associated with a specific organ system.

Acupuncturists believe that inserting needles into specific acupuncture points can stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and restore the normal flow of qi. Acupuncture points are typically located near nerves, muscles, or connective tissues, and their stimulation may promote the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, which can help alleviate pain and improve overall well-being.

Treatment[edit | edit source]

During an acupuncture session, the practitioner will first assess the patient's medical history and perform a physical examination. Based on this information, the acupuncturist will select specific acupuncture points for needle insertion.

The needles used in acupuncture are typically made of stainless steel and are very thin, ranging in size from 0.12 to 0.35 millimeters in diameter. The depth of needle insertion varies, depending on the location of the acupuncture point and the patient's condition. The needles may be left in place for a few minutes to half an hour, and the practitioner may manipulate the needles by twirling, lifting, or thrusting them to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.

Conditions Treated[edit | edit source]

Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain, such as lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Allergies
  • Infertility

Safety and Efficacy[edit | edit source]

The safety and efficacy of acupuncture have been extensively studied, with varying results. While some studies suggest that acupuncture may be effective for certain conditions, such as chronic pain and nausea, others have found little or no benefit. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) both recognize acupuncture as a potentially beneficial treatment for specific conditions.

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a qualified practitioner using sterile needles. However, some risks and side effects may occur, including pain or discomfort at the needle insertion site, bleeding, bruising, infection, or, rarely, injury to internal organs.

Types of Acupuncture[edit | edit source]

In addition to traditional acupuncture, several variations have emerged, including:

  • Electroacupuncture: A technique that involves passing small electrical currents through the acupuncture needles to stimulate the acupuncture points.
  • Auricular Acupuncture: A form of acupuncture that focuses on the ear, with the belief that the entire body is represented on the auricle (outer ear).
  • Scalp Acupuncture: A technique that involves inserting needles into specific points on the scalp to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.
  • Laser Acupuncture: A non-invasive form of acupuncture that uses low-intensity laser beams instead of needles to stimulate acupuncture points.

Regulation and Training[edit | edit source]

The practice of acupuncture is regulated in many countries, with requirements for education, training, and licensure varying widely. In the United States, most states require acupuncturists to complete a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) and pass the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) examination. Many other countries have similar regulatory bodies and certification processes.

History[edit | edit source]

The origins of acupuncture can be traced back more than 2,000 years to ancient China, where it was an integral part of the country's medical system. The earliest known texts on acupuncture, the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) and the Nan Jing (Classic of Difficult Issues), were written during the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE) and the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), respectively.

Acupuncture gained popularity in the West during the 20th century, particularly after U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, during which New York Times reporter James Reston received acupuncture for post-operative pain relief. This event sparked widespread interest in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in the United States and other Western countries.

Controversies[edit | edit source]

Despite its long history and widespread use, acupuncture remains a controversial practice in the scientific community. Critics argue that many acupuncture studies are methodologically flawed and that the effectiveness of acupuncture may be attributed to the placebo effect. However, proponents of acupuncture maintain that it is a safe and effective treatment for a variety of conditions, and ongoing research continues to explore its potential benefits and mechanisms of action.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Acupuncture (from Lat. acus, "needle" (noun), and pungere, "prick" (verb) or in Standard Mandarin, zhēn jiǔ (針灸) is a technique of inserting and manipulating needles into "acupuncture points" on the body.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Acupuncture Resources


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD