This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Acupuncture is an ancient technique in which a skilled practitioner inserts hair-thin needles into specific points on the body to prevent or treat illness. Practiced for over 2,500 years in China, where it originated, acupuncture is part of the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which views health as a constantly changing flow of energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"). In TCM, imbalances in this natural flow of energy are thought to result in disease. Acupuncture aims to restore health by improving the flow of qi.
While acupuncture was mentioned in Western medical texts more than a hundred years ago (Sir William Osler's Principles and Practice of Medicine, published in 1892, recommended it for sciatica and lumbago), it wasn't until 1971 that U.S. citizens really became aware of the technique. It was then that New York Times reporter James Reston, stricken with appendicitis while in Beijing, was treated successfully with acupuncture for post-surgical pain. In a front page Times story, Reston wrote, "I've seen the past, and it works!"
This exposure came at a time when many Americans were looking for a more holistic, naturalistic approach to health care, and it caused quite a stir among the Western medical community. Since then acupuncture has become a widely accepted form of treatment in the U.S., practiced by M.D.s and D.O.s (doctors of osteopathy) who have received special training in its methods, as well as by practitioners who specialize only in the technique.