Acupuncture is an alternative medicine technique. It involves the strategic placement of small, fine needles puncturing the skin on various areas of the body to relieve pain or treat other medical conditions. The needles are left in place for about 10 minutes to half an hour while the patient relaxes. The selection of the proper acupoints requires skill and knowledge.
The practice of acupuncture originated in Asia many centuries ago. Chinese acupuncture may also involve electrical stimulation or heat application for heightened effect. Some Chinese acupuncturists also slowly spin or twirl the needles after insertion. On the other hand, Japanese acupuncture is less invasive, with shallow needle insertion and no needle manipulation. Korean acupuncture focuses on needle placement only in the feet and hands.
Though acupuncture was highly controversial in Western medicine for many years, most of the medical community now recognizes its effectiveness for pain management. Only anecdotal evidence exists for treatments beyond pain relief.