|Acupuncture is the practice of puncturing the skin with needles at certain
anatomical points in the body to relieve specific symptoms associated with many
diseases. The anatomical points (acupuncture points) are thought to have certain
electrical properties, which affect chemical neurotransmitters in the body.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical practices in the
world. Originated in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture gained attention
in this country in the 1970s, when China and the US opened relations. The practice
has been growing in popularity since.
According to theories of traditional Chinese medicine, the human body has more than
2,000 acupuncture points connected via pathways, or meridians. These pathways
create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced "chee") through the body that is responsible
for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow can cause disease. Acupuncture
may correct these imbalances when applied at acupuncture points and improve the
flow of Qi.
Acupuncture theories today are based on extensive laboratory research, and
have become widely known and accepted. In addition, controlled studies have
shown evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions.
Many studies have documented acupuncture's effects on the body, but none has
fully explained how acupuncture works within the framework of Western medicine.
Researchers have proposed several processes to explain acupuncture's effects.
Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, which,
in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals
either alter the experience of pain or release other chemicals that influence the
body's self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body's
natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.