Acupuncture is part of a whole medical system that was practiced in China by the 3rd century B.C.E. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on a concept of vital energy, or qi (chee) that is believed to flow throughout the body. It is proposed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming unbalanced through internal or external influences. TCM accurately described diseases such as cancer, gallstones, and diabetes in 3rd century B.C.E. without the aide of even a microscope. Components of TCM in addition to acupuncture include herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises (qi gong, tai chi), meditation, and massage (tui na).

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It became better known in the United States in the 1970s after the U.S. opened relations with China.

The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that acupuncture is an effective therapy for over 200 clinical conditions.

  • Back pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Repetitive stress syndrome (including carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Alcohol, food, and tobacco addiction
  • Accidental injuries (promotes healing)
  • Sprains
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gynecological disorders
  • Digestive problems
  • Circulatory disorders
  • Nervous system disorders

Acupuncture also reduces stress and anxiety, and helps patients enter a deep state of relaxation, which enhances the healing process. Herbal medicine can increase the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatment and is often the primary treatment for chronic internal medical disorders.

According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey – the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date – an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.


Acupuncture works with the body’s life-energy or bioelectric energy “qi” (chee). Qi flows in well-defined pathways throughout the body. Some scientists believe these are the paths of least resistance in the body. Acupuncture points are places where this energy flow tends to get stuck, and is easily accessible. Pain, illness and discomfort are symptoms of blocked or disrupted energy flow. After the causes and origins of the blockage are identified, the qi is accessed through particular acupuncture points, and smooth balanced flow is carefully encouraged. As harmonious flow is restored, the entire body benefits, and symptoms tend to disappear.


Acupuncture needles are metallic, solid, and hair-thin. People experience acupuncture differently, but feel no or minimal pain as the needles are inserted. Some people are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during treatment. This is why it is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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. Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used.