What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure,
and other treatments to certain places on
the skin to cause a change in the physical
functions of the body. The use of acupuncture
is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Tradtional Chinese medicine is a medical
system that has been used for thousands
of years to prevent, diagnose, and treat
Acupuncture is based on the belief that
qi (vital energy) flows through the body
along a network of paths, called meridians.
Qi is said to affect a person's spiritual,
emotional, mental, and physical condition.
According to traditional Chinese medicine,
qi has two forces, yin and yang. Yin and
yang are opposite forces that work together
to form a whole. The forces of yin and yang
depend on each other and are made from each
other in an unending cycle, such as hot
and cold, day and night, and health and
disease. Nothing is ever all yin or all
yang, both exist in all things, including
people. Many of the major organs of the
body are believed to be yin-yang pairs that
must be in balance to be healthy. When a
person's yin and yang are not in balance,
qi can become blocked. Blocked qi causes
pain, illness, or other health problems.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture,
diet, herbal therapy, meditation, physical
exercise, and massage to restore health
by unblocking qi and correcting the balance
of yin and yang within the person.
What are Acupoints?
According to traditional Chinese medicine,
qi can be unblocked by using acupuncture
at certain places on the skin, called acupoints.
Acupoints are places where the meridians
come to the surface of the body. There are
more than 2,000 acupoints on the human body,
with specific acupoints for each condition
What is the history of the discovery
and use of acupuncture as a complementary
and alternative treatment?
The oldest medical book known, written
in China 4000 years ago, describes the use
of acupuncture to treat medical problems.
Research on acupuncture began in the United
States in 1976. Twenty years later, the
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved
the acupuncture needle as a medical device.
Many illnesses are treated with acupuncture.
How is acupuncture administered?
The acupuncture method most well-known
uses needles. Disposable, stainless steel
needles that are slightly thicker than a
human hair are inserted into the skin at
acupoints. The acupuncture practitioner
determines the correct acupoints to use
for the problem being treated. The inserted
needles may be twirled, moved up and down
at different speeds and depths, heated,
or charged with a weak electric current.
There are other acupuncture methods that
do not use needles.
What are some acupuncture techniques?
* Electroacupuncture: A procedure in which
pulses of weak electrical current are sent
through acupuncture needles into acupoints
in the skin.
* Trigger point acupuncture: The placing
of acupuncture needles in a place on the
skin that is away from the painful part
of the body. Trigger points have to do with
referred pain, pain that is not felt at
the site of injury, but is sent along nerves
and felt elsewhere in the body.
* Laser acupuncture: The use of a weak laser
beam instead of an acupuncture needle to
stimulate an acupoint.
* Acupuncture point injection: The use of
a syringe and needle to injectdrugs, vitamins,
herbal extracts, or other fluids into the
body at an acupoint.
* Microwave acupuncture: The use of a microwave
device attached to an acupuncture needle
to deliver microwave radiation to an acupoint.
* Acupressure: A type of massage therapy
in which the fingers are used to press on
an acupoint. In cancer patients, acupressure
has been used to control symptoms such as
pain or nausea and vomiting.
* Moxibustion: A type of heat therapy in
which an herb is burned above the body to
warm a meridian at an acupoint and increase
the flow of blood and qi. The herb may be
placed directly on the skin, held close
to the skin for several minutes, or placed
on the tip of an acupuncture needle.
* Cupping: A procedure in which a rounded
glass cup is warmed and placed upside down
over an area of the body, making a vacuum
that holds the cup to the skin. Cupping
is used to increase the flow of blood and
qi. It is believed to open up the skin's
pores and allow toxins to leave the body.
Have any side effects or risks
been reported from acupuncture?
There have been few complications reported.
It is important to seek treatment from a
qualified acupuncture practitioner like
Li's Acupuncture, who uses a new set of
disposable (single-use) needles for each
Is acupuncture approved by the
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for
use as a cancer treatment in the United
The FDA approved acupuncture needles for
use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The
FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles
be used and that they be labeled for single
use by qualified practitioners only.
More than 40 states and the District of
Columbia have laws regulating acupuncture
practice (see www.acufinder.com for an online
database of licensed acupuncture providers).
The National Certification Commission for
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org)
certifies practitioners of acupuncture and
traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Most
states require this certification.