The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine.
There are many different varieties of the practice of acupuncture, both in the Orient and in the West. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) usually combines acupuncture with Chinese herbs. Classical acupuncture (also known as five element acupuncture) uses a different needling technique and relies on acupuncture independent of the use of herbs. Japanese acupuncture uses smaller needles than the other varieties. Medical acupuncture refers to acupuncture practiced by a conventional medical doctor. Auricular acupuncture treats the entire body through acupuncture points in the ears only. Electroacupuncture uses electrical currents attached to acupuncture needles.
Aside from needles, other methods of stimulation are also considered forms of "acupuncture." These include the use of heat from the burning of herbs placed on specific points ("moxibustion") and the placement of herbal pastes on specific points.
Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture has special challenges. These include the diversity of approaches, the practice of individualizing treatment for each patient, differing skill levels between practitioners, and difficulty separating out the effects of acupuncture from placebo effects (i.e., how the patient's beliefs and expectations affect his/her perception of symptoms).
Based on acupuncture's long history of use as well as the limited research available, both the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health have identified many conditions for which it may be recommended. However, many common uses do not yet have formal scientific evidence to support them.

Related Terms

Abdominal cluster needling, acupoint, acupressure, acupuncture point stimulation, acustimulation, auricular acupuncture, auriculotherapy, back shu-points, Baihui, Bingfeng, BL58, BL67, body-acupuncture, brain-resuscitation acupuncture, centro-square needling, chi, chronopuncture, Chung Chi, Ciliao, classical balance method, computer-controlled electroacupuncture, conscious restoring resuscitation method, cranial needling, CV3, CV4, De Qi, Dicang, Diji, ear acupuncture, electro-acupuncture-anesthesia-device (EAAD), electroacupuncture, electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV), energy medicine, ethnic traditional Chinese medicine, eye acupuncture, eye needling, filiform needle acupuncture, French acupuncture, French energetic acupuncture, Ganshu, GB8, GB14, GB44, Guanyuan, GV20, GV21, H9, Han's acupoint nerve stimulator (HANS), hand acupuncture, Hegu, hot red needle therapy, HT7, intradermal acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture, Japanese meridian, Jiache, Jiafeng, Jingmen, K1, K7, Kaiyin point No. 1, Korean acupuncture, Korean hand acupuncture, Kuan Yuan, laser acupuncture, laser acupuncture therapy, LI1, LI4, LI11,LI20, long needle retention, low level laser acupuncture, LU9, LU11, manual acupuncture, manual stimulation of needles, Matsumoto, medical acupuncture, meridian, motor therapy, moxibustion, myofascial acupuncture, nei-quan, Neiguan, neural therapy, otopuncture, P6 point, P9, PC6, Pishu, point injection, Qi, Qimen, reflexotherapy, Ren17, Ryodoraku, Sanyinjiao, scalp acupuncture, seed, sham acupuncture, sham laser acupuncture, Shaoze, shen-men, Shenshu, shonishin, Shu-Mu points, SI1, SI4, SJ5, somatic acupuncture, SP1, SP6, sphenopalatine ganglion, ST2, ST36, ST40, ST45, superficial dry needling, Taiyang, TB1, tendon muscle picking, thunder fire miraculous needling, 'ti qi tiao xue, fu ben pei, yuan' acupuncture, Tongnao Huoluo acupuncture (TNHLA), tongue acupuncture, traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA), traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), transcutaneous nerve stimulation, trigger point acupuncture, triple needling, Tzu Liao, UB2, UB32, verum acupuncture, Vietnamese acupuncture, warm reinforcing needling, Weiwanxiashu of Gliguidon, Weizhong, Western acupuncture, wrist-ankle acupuncture, Xiajuxu, Yangbai, Yanglingquan, Xinshu, Zhangmen, Zhongji, Zhuya Tongfu (ZYTF), Zusanli points.
Not included in this review: Acupressure, acustimulation, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), shiatsu.