Acupuncture is an alternative medicine methodology originating in ancient China that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles that have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points can correct imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians. However, scientific research has not found any histological or physiological correlates for qi, meridians and acupuncture points, and some contemporary practitioners needle the body without using the traditional theoretical framework.
Current scientific research supports acupuncture's efficacy in the relief of certain types of pain and post-operative nausea. Other reviews have concluded that positive results reported for acupuncture are too small to be of clinical relevance and may be the result of inadequate experimental blinding, or can be explained by placebo effects and publication bias. The invasiveness of acupuncture make it difficult to design an experiment that adequately controls for placebo effects. A number of tests comparing traditional acupuncture to sham procedures found that both sham and traditional acupuncture were superior to usual care but were themselves equivalent, findings apparently at odds with traditional theories regarding acupuncture point specificity.
The efficacy of acupuncture is controversial. Its use for certain conditions has been tentatively endorsed by the United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization,and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Some scientists have criticized these endorsements as being unduly credulous and not including objections to or criticisms of the research used to support acupuncture's effectiveness.
The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that bodily functions are regulated by an energy called qi which flows through the body; disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Acupuncture describes a family of procedures aiming to correct imbalances in the flow of qi by stimulation of anatomical locations on or under the skin by a variety of techniques. The most common mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points employs penetration of the skin by thin metal needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.