What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners insert fine needles into the skin to treat health problems. The needles may be manipulated manually or stimulated with small electrical currents (electroacupuncture). Acupuncture has been in use in some form for at least 2,500 years. It originated from traditional Chinese medicine but has gained popularity worldwide since the 1970s.

Acupuncture: What You Need To Know


How widely is acupuncture used?

According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture is used in 103 of 129 countries that reported data.

In the United States, data from the National Health Interview Survey showed a 50 percent increase in the number of acupuncture users between 2002 and 2012. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 6.4 percent of U.S. adults reported they had used acupuncture, and 1.7 percent reported they had used it in the past 12 months.

What is acupuncture used for?

National survey data indicate that in the United States, acupuncture can treat and prevent many diseases, you can check out our website 'Conditions We Treat'. It sits underneath navigation Acupuncture.

NCCIH-Funded Research

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NCCIH funds research to evaluate acupuncture’s effectiveness for various kinds of pain and other conditions and to further understand how the body responds to acupuncture and how acupuncture might work. Some recent NCCIH-supported studies involve:

Evaluating the feasibility of using acupuncture in hospital emergency departments.Testing whether the effect of acupuncture on chronic low-back pain can be enhanced by combining it with transcranial direct current stimulation.Evaluating a portable acupuncture-based nerve stimulation treatment for anxiety disorders.

What does research show about the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain?

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Research has shown that acupuncture may be helpful for several pain conditions, including back or neck pain, knee pain associated with osteoarthritis, and postoperative pain. It may also help relieve joint pain associated with the use of aromatase inhibitors, which are drugs used in people with breast cancer.

An analysis of data from 20 studies (6,376 participants) of people with painful conditions (back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, or headaches) showed that the beneficial effects of acupuncture continued for a year after the end of treatment for all conditions except neck pain.


Is acupuncture safe?

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Relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been reported. However, complications have resulted from use of nonsterile needles and improper delivery of treatments.When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections, punctured organs, and injury to the central nervous system.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture needles as medical devices and requires that they be sterile and labeled for single use only.

What does research show about acupuncture for conditions other than pain?

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In addition to pain conditions, acupuncture has also been studied for at least 50 other health problems. There is evidence that acupuncture may help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, stress incontinence in women, and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment. It may also help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life in people with asthma, but it has not been shown to improve lung function.

Do acupuncturists need to be licensed?

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Most states license acupuncturists, but the requirements for licensing vary from state to state. To find out more about licensing of acupuncturists and other complementary health practitioners, visit the NCCIH webpage Credentialing, Licensing, and Education.

What is auricular acupuncture good for?

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Auricular acupuncture is a type of acupuncture that involves stimulating specific areas of the ear. Research on auricular acupuncture for chronic back pain and cancer pain has had promising results.