What is acupuncture?

Sheri Krauss
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Acupuncture is part of a system of medicine called traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture is a tool used to help move blood, stimulate blood flow and alleviate pain. The traditional perspective is that acupuncture removes blockages. So, when people have pain or one of their systems isn't working, acupuncturists think of that as having a blockage in energy or blood flow or fluid. The acupuncture gets in there and stimulates things so that the system starts to return to normal functioning.

Trinity Health recognizes that people seek medical information on a variety of topics for a variety of reasons. Trinity Health does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. As a Catholic health care organization, Trinity Health acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition.

Please note, the information contained on this website is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions regarding your medical condition or before starting any new treatment. In the event of a medical emergency always call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency care facility.
Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
Acupuncture is a 5,000-year-old Chinese medical system that treats people by inserting and manipulating needles in the body at certain energy points to produce intentional physiological responses and healing. Acupuncture continues to gain recognition as an effective way to manage pain and discomfort. Even cyclists in the Tour de France have used acupuncture to maintain top form and combat painful inflammation.

This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese healing method that has been practiced for over 2,000 years. Acupuncturists believe energy (or chi) travels along 14 main pathways throughout the body. These pathways are called meridians. Disruption of the normal flow of chi is believed to result in disease. By inserting thin, metallic needles along specific meridian points, acupuncturists attempt to alter the flow of energy, generating greater balance and harmony within the body.

Acupuncture is generally well tolerated, although adverse effects have been reported. Studies of multiple sclerosis (MS) and acupuncture have produced variable results. Small, preliminary studies in the general population indicate that anxiety, depression, dizziness, headache, pain, bladder problems, and weakness may respond favorably to acupuncture.
Gerald M. Silverman
Chiropractic Medicine
Originally an ancient Chinese healing art, acupuncture has gained popularity in the United States in the last twenty years. The primary therapeutic approach involves the insertion of extremely thin needles just below the skin's surface. One theory behind the effectiveness of acupuncture is that the insertions stimulate the body to produce naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals. Another theory sees the needles as a counterirritant that blocks the production of pain impulses. The process of needling is not painful, and most patients describe the insertion as a very light pinching sensation. Needles may be placed in and around the painful sites as well as at other points on the body that the practitioner feels will help relieve the condition. The needles usually remain in place from ten to fifteen minutes and are then removed and discarded. Some practitioners try to further stimulate the area by adding small electrical currents to the needles, or by using a cupping or suction technique to bring additional blood to the region.

A typical course of acupuncture consists of approximately ten thirty-minute treatments. Though some patients may experience slight discomfort, the treatments are considered very safe with few potential side effects. As with physical therapy and chiropractic therapy, if the treatments are going to be successful, you should notice some significant improvement within the first few sessions.
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Acupuncture is the insertion of one or more dry needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific acupuncture points. By gently twisting or stimulating the needles, a measurable release of endorphins may go into the bloodstream. Energy blocks are removed, and the flow of energy along the meridians is restored. Various endorphins block incoming pain information through the release of serotonin and norepinephrine.

Another form of stimulating the acupuncture points once the needle is in place is through hooking up small wires connected to very slight electrical currents. This is known as electro‑acupuncture. Heat (moxibustion) and massage (acupressure) can be used during this process.

Acupuncture tends to be operator dependent, therefore choose a practitioner who has a lot of experience. Acupuncture has very few contraindications, and the side effects are few.
Ben Kaminsky
Dermatology
With this healing art, a trained practitioner inserts one or more dry needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific points on the body. By stimulating these acupuncture points with the needles, rhythmic discharges in nerve fibers are produced, causing the release of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones that can help you relax and feel positive. There is scientific evidence that acupuncture may positively change the way the brain interprets pain and other external sensations, which may give relief for many chronic illnesses.

If you want to try acupuncture, make sure you select a licensed acupuncturist with vast experience who uses only disposable needles. At this time, there are more than 6,500 certified and licensed practitioners in the United States, and more than 3,000 of these are conventional medical doctors. For recommendations, you can write or call the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA).
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Dr. Daniel Hsu, DAOM
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Acupuncture is a modality invented by ancient Chinese doctors. Modern acupuncture involves inserting and manipulating stainless steel acupuncture needles of varying thicknesses and lengths into the body in order to achieve a desired effect. Acupuncture needles are FDA approved, class II medical devices. Acupuncture is an effective form of therapy that can and should be used in conjunction with other available therapies to help the patient.  Although ancient acupuncture theory involved the concept of moving "Qi" or "Chi" or energy, modern acupuncture practitioners also understand that the word Qi is a metaphor for metabolic functions of the body. Acupuncture assists the body to alter those metabolic functions and to heal itself.

Acupuncture is the technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. It is a type of complementary and alternative medicine.

This answer is based on source information from The National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Acupuncture is a medical practice that has been used for over 2000 years, originating in China and Eastern Asia.  It involves the manipulation of very thin metal needles inserted into points on the body.
The theory behind acupuncture is that there are two main forces in the body: Yin, which is cold and passive, and Yang, which is hot and active. In addition, the body is made up of energy channels known as meridians. When Yin and Yang are balanced, the energy, or Qi (pronounced Chi), flows well through these meridians and the body is healthy.  When Yin and Yang are not balanced the Qi becomes stagnant or blocked and there is illness.  The use of the acupuncture needles opens the channels and allows the Qi to flow.  
 There are specific points where the needles need to be placed in order to open up the channels of the body. The point may be far from the area that is being treated.  For example to relieve a headache, the needle is inserted in an area between the thumb and index finger.  Interestingly, the meridians and acupuncture points have been mapped out for centuries.  The earliest description dates back to the Han Dynasty in China (206 BCE to 220 ACE).

Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese medicine, which includes a complex system of herbal medicine, diet, exercise, and tuina, a form of massage. In traditional Chinese medicine, symptoms are attributed to alterations in the flow of qi (energy) by trauma, stress, disease, or other factors. Acupuncture stimulates certain points along non-anatomic energy meridians to attract, disperse, or unblock the flow of qi.

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Acupuncture is a medical practice that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness for more than 2,000 years and is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical practices in the world. Acupuncture involves use of fine, hair-like needles that are placed in specific anatomic points along well-defined meridians, which are pathways in the body that are related to organs, the muscular system, and the nervous system. In eastern medicine, pain or illness is thought to result from an imbalance in the flow of energy (or qi) in these meridians because of poor diet, trauma, genetic conditions, emotional issues, stress, medications, or environmental factors. Acupuncture is used to rebalance this flow of energy and help stimulate the body's ability to heal itself. It is commonly used for a variety of conditions ranging from allergies to infertility to headaches.

Continue Learning about Acupuncture

Acupuncture

Acupuncture

Imagine relief from back pain without medication. Imagine childbirth without the intense pain. These are just a few of the many benefits acupuncture may provide. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago. It involves ...

a technique using very thin needles, which are strategically inserted in certain parts of your body. The theory is founded on balancing the flow of energy (qi or chi) through pathways (meridians) in your body. Practitioners believe that by restoring the energy flow, a re-balancing and restoration of harmony will be restored to your body. Western medicine is becoming more and more open to this ancient practice, and over the past several decades, acupuncture has been looked upon as a favorable alternative to treating many conditions.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.