Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific acupoints along the skin of the body involving various methods such as the application of heat, pressure, or laser or penetration of thin needles. It is a form of complementary and alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). According to TCM, stimulating specific acupuncture points corrects imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians.Acupuncture aims to treat a range of conditions,though is most commonly used for pain relief.

Acupuncture has been the subject of active scientific research both in regard to its basis and therapeutic effectiveness since the late 20th century.Any evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is variable and inconsistent for all conditions. An overview of high-quality Cochrane reviews suggested that acupuncture may alleviate some but not all kinds of pain while a systematic review of systematic reviews found little evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for reducing pain. Although minimally invasive, the puncturing of the skin with acupuncture needles poses problems when designing trials that adequately control for placebo effects. Additionally, the time that an acupuncturist spends with a patient as well as the needle ritual can themselves have psychologically beneficial impacts, and research suggests that much if not all of acupuncture’s beneficial effects come from these placebo effects.

Acupuncture is generally safe when done using clean technique and single use needles.When properly delivered it has a low rate of mostly minor adverse effects. About ten serious adverse events a year were reported from 2000–9 that were attributable to acupuncture, including five deaths; many were attributable to malpractice in developed countries. A meta-analysis found that acupuncture for chronic low back pain was cost-effective as a complement to standard care, but not as a substitute for standard care except in cases where comorbid depression presented[ while a systematic review found insufficient evidence for the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic low back pain.

Scientific investigation has not found any histological or physiological support for traditional Chinese concepts such as qi, meridians, and acupuncture points and some contemporary practitioners use acupuncture without following the traditional Chinese approach and have abandoned the concepts of qi and meridians as pseudoscientific.TCM is largely pseudoscience, with no valid mechanism of action for the majority of its treatments. Acupuncture is currently used widely throughout China and many other countries, including the U.S.It is uncertain exactly when acupuncture was generally thought to have originated in ancient China and how it evolved.Chinese history attributes the introduction of acupuncture to the emperor Shennong.Hieroglyphs and pictographs have been found dating from the Shang Dynasty (1600–1100 BCE) which suggests that acupuncture was practiced along with moxibustion. The tattoo marks identified on the Ice Man who died around 3300 BCE suggested that a form of stimulatory treatment resembling acupuncture developed independent of China.

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