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Acupuncture Terms

Common terms used in acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture -An ancient Chinese health practice that involves puncturing the skin with hair-thin needles at particular locations, called acupuncture points, on the patient's body. Acupuncture is believed to help reduce pain or change a body function. Sometimes the needles are twirled, given a slight electric charge (see electroacupuncture), or warmed (see moxibustion).

Clinical studies - (Also clinical trials, clinical outcomes studies, controlled trials, case series, comparative trials, or practice audit evidence.) Tests of a treatment's effects in humans. Treatments undergo clinical studies only after they have shown promise in laboratory studies of animals. Clinical studies help researchers find out whether a promising treatment is safe and effective for people. They also tell scientists which treatments are more effective than others.

Electroacupuncture -A variation of traditional acupuncture treatment in which acupuncture or needle points are stimulated electronically.

Electromagnetic signals -The minute electrical impulses that transmit information through and between nerve cells. For example, electromagnetic signals convey information about pain and other sensations within the body's nervous system.

Holistic -Describes therapies based on facts about the "whole person," including spiritual and mental aspects, not only the specific part of the body being treated. Holistic practitioners may advise changes in diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors to help treat a patient's condition.

Meridians -A traditional Chinese medicine term for the 14 pathways throughout the body for the flow of qi, or vital energy, accessed through acupuncture points.

Moxibustion -The use of dried herbs in acupuncture. The herbs are placed on top of acupuncture needles and burned. This method is believed to be more effective at treating some health condititions than using acupuncture needles alone.

Neurohormones - Chemical substances made by tissue in the body's nervous system that can change the structure or function or direct the activity of an organ or organs.

Neurological -A term referring to the body's nervous system, which starts, oversees, and controls all body functions.

Neurotransmitters -Biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses in the brain that relay information about external stimuli and sensations, such as pain.

Opioids -Synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that may reduce pain and induce sleep.

Qi -(Pronounced "chee.") The Chinese term for vital energy or life force.


 Provided by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine/ National Institutes of Health