Acupuncture is the practice of piercing one's skin with needles to alleviate pain, or bring about some physiological effect. It is a medical treatment tagged to have started in China, but has spread to countries outside its birthland. Patients undergoing such treatment, as seen on television and online video clips, do not seem to show discomfort at the needle-piercing.
For many people undergoing chronic pain, or those who must end post-operative recovery, acupuncture is a popular alternative. Or at least as an accompanying treatment to another pain-management solution, such as a controlled dosage and intake of prescribed drugs.
The needles used are thinner than hypodermic needles, which are hollow, and used for injection. As such the needle prick is not as painful. A patient undergoes a diagnosis by a licensed acupuncturist, and the treatment that follows is particular to that patient alone. Factors that affect the treatment include the patient's age, and how long she reports to have had her condition.
As with any treatment, reducing risks should be prioritized. These include, based on reports, minor bleeding, infection, dizziness, and some bruising. Some acupuncture practitioners advise finding licensed acupuncturists, or those one has looked up over the Web to have had no complaints or criminal charges filed against them.
The individual-to-individual approach, the warm atmosphere, the highly attentive “physician”, the absence of surgery or expensive drugs, and the mystical explanation of the illness, all reportedly combine into a placebo effect. There are studies alleging to document specific conditions successfully created with acupuncture. There are also studies questioning those studies.
Traditional Chinese medical practice discourages dissection, so it may in this context that the theoretical frame supporting how acupuncture works, was born. The acupuncturist examines the patient, primarily her tongue. Then he listens to the patient cough and breathe normally. Takes note of bodily odors. Then he asks the patient how about her sleep, appetite, fevers, perspiration, among other things. Finally, he pays for palpitations on the patient.
Based on the above diagnostic procedure, the acupuncturist decides which points on the body to treat. The paradigm relations on the image of the human body as a water system. The flowing water is Qi, or life-force, or blood. The points or meridians on the body are points the needle can go through, in order to remove, unblock or alleviate a blockage or Qi, thereby alleviating pain or causing some other effect. A restored Qi flow sees to be the goal.
As for scientific consensus on the efficiency of acupuncture, the medical community does not seem to have one. The invasive nature of the procedure is usually cited as one difficulty in conducting controlled experiments. This adds to claim that reliable literature on the subject is thin.
The theory that underpins how acupuncture works is also cited as having no counterpart in Western medical theories. Essentially, rigorous testing relies on tight cause and effect and controlled conditions of experiments, with the aim of successfully replicating results. Testing continues, undublished. For people after some relief from pain, whether or not their mind mindset and bias played a role in it, acupuncture, as with other forms or treatment, remains open.