Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which is a system of medicine that originated in China over 2000 years ago.
When treating a patient, rather than looking for a specific disease that has a precise cause, the TCM physician looks for patterns of disharmony in a person, both physiological and psychological. The purpose of treatment is to restore harmony to the whole person.
Acupuncture in TCM is based on the theory of yin and yang, according to which all things are related to each other and are parts of a whole. The goal of acupuncture treatment in TCM is to rebalance aspects of the body’s yin and yang that have become unbalanced.
Acupuncture is based on the idea that inserting fine needles into specific points that lie along meridians in the body can help to rebalance disharmonies in the body.
Meridians are a network of channels or pathways in the body that connect all organs of the body. They are also the channels that carry Qi (sometimes defined as vital energy) throughout the body.
If there is disharmony along a Meridian, there will also be a disharmony in the organ or organs along the Meridian. Similarly, a disharmony in an organ can manifest along a Meridian. For example, a disharmony along the Stomach Meridian may manifest as a toothache in the upper gums because the Stomach Meridian passes through the upper gums.
Acupuncture is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Starting in the early 1970s, over 500 randomized controlled trials (RTCs) have been conducted in the West (Europe, Australia, and North America) on the efficacy of acupuncture to treat various conditions.
Based on the results of these studies, the National Institutes of Health concluded in 1997 that acupuncture is effective for nausea and vomitting and various pain conditions.
Painful conditions for which acupuncture has proven to be effective include low back pain, osteoarthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and fibromyalgia. It is also helpful for treating sports injuries.
In addition to these conditions, naturopaths and acupuncturists and have documented the effectiveness of acupuncture for a wide variety of conditions, such as hormonal imbalance (e.g., menopausal hot flashes), anxiety, peripheral neuropathy, digestive concerns, insomnia, stress, and many others.
Acupuncture is also known to be effective for treating certain types of infertility and various conditions associated with pregnancy.