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Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine. Behind this treatment is the belief that energy (or “life force” or "Qi") flows through your body. By improving that flow, you also may enhance your health.Male acupuncturist by patient, pointing at acupuncture point on model.

Improved energy flow

Acupuncturists focus on a vital energy called qi (pronounced "chee"). They believe that qi flows through a complex network of pathways (also referred to as meridians or channels). Thin needles are inserted into the body at precise locations called acupoints. This is thought to aid the body in unblocking channels and improving the flow of qi. Depending on which acupoint is targeted, the health effect may be different. In some cases, certain herbs are burned in a controlled manner near an acupoint. Using herbs in this manner is called moxibustion.

Acupuncturists are trained to spot problems with qi flow early. They may do this by asking health questions, checking your pulse at the wrist, and by looking at your tongue. Using this diagnostic process helps them locate a problem sometimes even before you can tell that something is wrong.

Why seek this care?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), has said that acupuncture may be helpful for treating certain conditions. These include addiction withdrawal, pain, nausea, hay fever, and some other health problems. Acupuncturists will often treat an even wider range of conditions. For instance, acupuncture may be done to treat anxiety disorders or depression, among many other health concerns.

Questions for the acupuncturist

Before you decide whether to have acupuncture to treat a health problem, talk with an acupuncturist. Asking him or her some of these questions may help you make an informed decision:

  • What is your training? How long have you been practicing?

  • What risks do I need to know about?

  • Have you treated problems like mine?

  • What will a typical visit be like?

  • Do you use disposable needles?

  • Will I feel the needles?

  • How long will treatment take and how much will it cost?

  • Will my insurance pay for your services?


Research acupuncture in your local library, on the Internet, or by contacting:

  • American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

  • National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.