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Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.
By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body's natural painkillers.
What’s the Bottom Line?
How much do we know about acupuncture?
There have been extensive studies conducted on acupuncture, especially for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain, and headache. However, researchers are only beginning to understand whether acupuncture can be helpful for various health conditions.
What do we know about the effectiveness of acupuncture?
Research suggests that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions, but evidence about its value for other health issues is uncertain.
What do we know about the safety of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects.
If you're considering acupuncture, take the same steps you would to choose a doctor:
-Ask people you trust for recommendations.
-Check the practitioner's training and credentials. Most states require that non-physician acupuncturists pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
-Interview the practitioner. Ask what's involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.
-Find out whether your insurance covers the treatment.
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