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What is acupuncture?

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Acupuncture is an ancient form of alternative or complementary therapy. It involves inserting tiny needles into specific places in the skin called acupuncture points. Acupuncture is commonly used to treat chronic pain. Acupuncture may also help manage and prevent many conditions, from anxiety and premenstrual syndrome to infertility and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine practiced for thousands of years. Traditional acupuncturists believe that stimulating specific points on the body with tiny needles can restore and maintain health by balancing the flow of chi (pronounced “CHEE”), or vital energy, though the body. Western scientists believe that acupuncture may stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. This increases blood flow and your body's natural painkillers. 

Research suggests that acupuncture may be effective for certain conditions, such as knee pain and low-back pain. More research is needed to verify how effective it is for these and other conditions. 

You should consider acupuncture as a complementary therapy. It should not replace a complete medical treatment plan. Acupuncture involves little risk for most people. Discuss all your treatment options with your doctor to learn which options are safest and most effective for you. 

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Oct 29, 2012

© 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Acupuncture. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture.
  2. Acupuncture in Cancer Therapy. American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/acu_info/articles/cancertreatment.html
  3. Acupuncture: An Introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm.
  4. Acupuncture for Pain. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm.
  5. Consumers Frequently Asked Questions. National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental medicine. http://www.nccaom.org/consumers/frequently-asked-questions-consumer.
  6. Doctor, What’s This Acupuncture All About? American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/acu_info/articles/aboutacupuncture.html.
  7. Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture. American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/acu_info/faqs.html.
  8. What Is Acupuncture? What Are The Benefits Of Acupuncture? Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156488.php.

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