Acupuncture – What Is It?


This is the procedure of inserting and manipulating filiform needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, “needle”, and pungere,  “to prick”.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture points are situated on meridians along which qi (a “life energy”) flows.

Modern acupuncture texts present them as ideas that are useful in clinical practice and continue to inform the practice of acupuncture, but there is no evidence to support their existence and they have not been reconciled with contemporary knowledge about biology, physics or chemistry.

The earliest written record is the Chinese text Shiji with elaboration of its history in the second century BCE medical text Huang Di Neijing. Different variations are practiced and taught throughout the world.

It has been the subject of active scientific research since the late 20th century, but it remains controversial among conventional medical researchers and clinicians. Due to the invasive nature of  treatments, it is difficult to create studies that use proper scientific controls.

Some scholarly reviews have concluded that the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment can be explained largely through the placebo effect, while others have suggested some efficacy in the treatment of specific conditions.

An acupuncturist published a review of clinical trials for the World Health Organization that concluded it was effective for the treatment of many conditions, but the report was roundly criticized by medical scientists for being inaccurate and misleading.

Alternative medicine texts have declared that specialized acupuncture techniques can be effective for treating neurological conditions and relieving pain, but such claims have been criticized by several scientists for bias and a reliance on studies that used poor methodology.

Reports from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the American Medical Association (AMA)and various government reports have studied and commented on the efficacy (or lack thereof) of acupuncture.

There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles, and that further research is needed.

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