Knowledge Base


What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture dates back to ancient China and involves the application of needles to precise points on the body. It is part of a general category of healing called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Traditional acupuncture is used to correct imbalances in qi, the energy flow of living things. Research suggests that acupuncture may be helpful in managing some forms of pain, though more research is required. 

How does it work?

While more supporting evidence is needed, some scientists believe that the pain relief associated with acupuncture may be the result of released endorphins. However, research has not been able to show a strong differentiation between acupuncture and a placebo effect. 

What kinds are there?

  • Acupuncture: Traditional use of needles, strategically inserted into the skin, in order to stimulate nerve cells. 
  • Electroacupuncture: The use of low-frequency to electrically charge needs used in acupunctures. Electroacupuncture is thought to further stimulate nerve cells, beyond that of non-charged needles. 
  • Acupressure: Using the same physical reference points in acupuncture, pressure is applied by hand, elbow or other instruments to help relieve pain and stimulate nerve cells.  

Related evidence

Ernst E1, Lee MS, Choi TY. Acupuncture: does it alleviate pain and are there serious risks? A review of reviews. Pain. 2011 Apr;152(4):755-64. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.11.004.

Garrow AP, Xing M, Vere J, Verrall B, Wang L, Jude EB. Role of acupuncture in the management of diabetic painful neuropathy (DPN): a pilot RCT. Acupunct Med. 2014 Jun;32(3):242-9. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010495. Epub 2014 Mar 21.

Lu W, Rosenthal DS. Acupuncture for cancer pain and related symptoms. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2013 Mar;17(3):321. doi: 10.1007/s11916-013-0321-3.