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Acupuncture Facts

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture became widely known in the United States in 1971 when New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in Beijing, China, used needles to ease his abdominal pain after surgery. Research shows that acupuncture is beneficial in treating a variety of health conditions.

In the past two decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. In 1993, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated that Americans made 9 to 12 million visits per year to acupuncture practitioners and spent as much as $500 million on acupuncture treatments. In 1995, an estimated 10,000 nationally certified acupuncturists were practicing in the United States. By the year 2000, that number is expected to double. Currently, an estimated one-third of certified acupuncturists in the United States are medical doctors.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded a variety of research projects on acupuncture that have been awarded by its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Dental Research, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This information package provides general information about acupuncture, summaries of NIH research findings on acupuncture, information for the health consumer, a list of additional information resources, and a glossary that defines terms underscored in the text. It also lists books, journals, organizations, and Internet resources to help you learn more about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

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  • Approaching Acupuncture Treatment

    Use these tips as an introduction to your experience with acupuncture. These steps will ensure you're informed and prepared for your first acupuncture session.
  • The Sensation of Acupuncture

    Acupuncture needles are nothing like the thick, hollow hypodermic needles used in Western medicine. The sensations felt during an Acupuncture treatment vary greatly. Learn what an Acupuncture treatment feels like.
  • What Makes Those Needles Work?

    Traditional Chinese medicine theorizes that the more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 12 main and 8 secondary pathways, called meridians, which conduct energy, or qi, between the surface of the body and internal organs.