What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. As part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture aims to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body. In the United States, where practitioners incorporate healing traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries, acupuncture is considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. Acupuncture became better known in the United States in 1971, when The New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery.

Practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years, acupuncture stimulates specific points on the body through a variety of techniques, including the insertion of thin metal needles though the skin. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of qi (vital energy) and restore and maintain health. Qi can be unblocked, according to TCM, by using acupuncture at certain points on the body that connect with pathways known as meridians. Sources vary on the number of meridians, with numbers ranging from 14 to 20. There are at least 2,000 acupuncture points.

The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health in 1997 stated that acupuncture is being widely practiced � by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners � for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey � the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine use by American adults to date � an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. Relatively few complications have been reported from the use of acupuncture, however, it can cause potentially serious side effects if not performed properly by a qualified practitioner.

Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

NCCAOM - National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine