Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been studied as a treatment for a variety of health conditions, from chronic pain to arthritis to asthma to infertility. Many scientific studies have shown acupuncture to be helpful for people with broad range of conditions.
An acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of thin metal needles at certain points around the body to alter the flow of energy. This energy, known as qi (pronounced chee) can cause problems in the body when its flow is out of balance, according to traditional Chinese medical theories. There are more than 400 acupuncture points on the body, but typically four to 12 are stimulated during each acupuncture treatment. Often, multiple treatments are needed to determine if the procedure will be effective.
More About Acupuncture
Some people are hesitant to try acupuncture because of a fear of needles, but most people who try it report little to no pain. The needles are also discarded after use so there is no chance of infection.
An acupuncture treatment can last from 45 to 90 minutes. The acupuncturist may use other means of manipulating the body as well, such as acupressure applied with the fingers, gentle heat or mild electrical stimulation.
Conditions That Acupuncture Helps
Despite its mythical qualities, acupuncture has shown solid results in many scientific studies. The U.S. National Institutes of Health regards it as a reasonable treatment for many types of pain, including headaches, neck pain and low back pain. Other studies have shown it to be helpful for anxiety, depression, dizziness and urinary problems. Acupuncture is also generally regarded as a safe treatment with few side effects.
It’s important to find a qualified and licensed acupuncturist if you’re considering the treatment. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org) has a tool on its website that can aid in the search for a licensed acupuncturist.
SOURCES: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; National Multiple Sclerosis Society
But study into alternative therapies didn't find evidence to support using dietary supplements
Treatment with 1 to 5 needles might stop the excessive crying, Swedish researchers say
'Electroacupuncture' led to symptom relief even 12 weeks after treatment, study finds
Approaches such as acupuncture, massage and tai chi may ease discomfort
However, definitive evidence remains lacking, experts say
Specialists urge doctors to offer alternative therapies for this widespread problem
More than $30 billion paid out-of-pocket for acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care, supplements
But experts say finding is preliminary, didn't include a control 'sham' treatment
Italian trial finds the therapy was also linked to better quality of life among women in the study
Alternative therapy combined with medication appears safe and effective, expert says
Researchers say placebo effect likely played a role in results
'Alexander technique' also helped more than drugs and physical therapy, study found
But small study isn't conclusive, experts say
Even 'sham' acupuncture beat one frequently used medication
Doctor says finding illustrates power of placebo effect
Testing is recommended, sinus imaging is not for hay fever
Treatment-related discomfort, swelling helped by the approaches, studies find
Exercise and acupuncture may ease pain and swelling in breast cancer survivors, study finds.
Does acupuncture help relieve chronic knee pain and improve physical function?
Laser, needle treatment worked no better than 'sham' procedure
Researchers recommend improving needle quality
Findings suggest any benefit resulted from placebo effect
But small study doesn't prove it works, expert says
Report suggests some approaches might work alongside -- not instead of -- traditional therapy
Study found patients who had treatment for 8 weeks fared better with symptoms
Women in study had less physical, mental fatigue and better quality of life
Ancient technique outperformed 'sham' acupuncture in large review
New studies look at ways to stop smoking and fight cancer, heart disease and obesity
In small study, alternative treatment plus meds seemed to help with shortness of breath
Centuries-old therapy can help men and women alike with fertility issues, experts say
Precise needle location may be less important than thought, expert says
Patients in small, preliminary study had pain relief in calves, feet
Serious side effects generally related to less well-trained practitioners
Their use of everything from herbals to massage exceeds that of the general public, research suggests
Study was very small, but some men got quick relief, researchers say
Small study finds less severe hot flashes after 10 weeks of treatment
Small Chinese study found it worked better than an eye patch in older kids with condition
Researchers say it affects perception and processing of discomfort
Substantial relief found with both sham, traditional Chinese acupuncture, researchers find
Needle insertion stimulates production of chemical known to reduce discomfort, scientists say
Traditional Chinese therapy beat vitamin B for those with scent-robbing viral infection, study found
For fearful patients, ancient therapy could help, study suggests
Funding to promote safety guidelines urged by experts
In study, response rate almost 20 percent higher with depression-specific acupuncture
Blending therapies would benefit patients, survey reports
But the study was small and one expert believes more research is needed
Mind-body therapies increase odds of pregnancy, studies find
Exercise also improves symptoms and related risk factors, study finds
Scans show that treatment regulates brain's pain centers, researchers say
But it's no better than standard treatment, one expert says