Acupuncture is a component of the health care system of China that can be traced back at least 2,500 years. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Acupuncture may, it has been theorized, correct imbalances of flow at identifiable points close to the skin.
The practice of acupuncture to treat identifiable pathophysiological (disease) conditions in American medicine was rare until the visit of President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972. Since that time, there has been an explosion of interest in the United States and Europe in the application of the technique of acupuncture to Western medicine.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles about as slender as a human hair into the skin on specific locations of the body. The acupuncturist may simply leave the needles in for a period of time, or may manipulate them with his hands or via electrical stimulation. Different people experience acupuncture in different ways. Many report no discomfort whatsoever during needle insertion, while others report pain. Some people feel a burst of energy following the treatment, while others become relaxed. Follow-up treatments typically occur over a time span of several weeks or months.
Unlike undergoing surgery or even completing a drug regimen, acupuncture is a noninvasive treatment, with little to no side effects or recovery time. It may therefore reduce dependence on medications as well as the need for unpleasant medical procedures. Acupuncture is suitable for almost all people, regardless of physical condition, with the possible exception of those suffering from bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners. The practice takes a holistic approach in attempting to eliminate the root cause of the malady, rather than simply mitigating the symptoms.