What It Is: Practitioners insert hair-thin metal needles into the skin on various points on the body. Acupuncture has been used in China (where it originated) for thousands of years.
Claims: A type of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture attempts to restore balance to a person’s qi (pronounced chi), or life force, in an effort to maintain and improve health. Practitioners use acupuncture to treat most ills, typically inserting the needles along meridians (invisible pathways in the body). There’s no agreement on how acupuncture actually works. One theory maintains that “the needles stimulate the nervous system to release a range of neurotransmitters that suppress pain,” says Eric Manheimer, director of database and evaluation for the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, in Baltimore.What’s Been Proven: Many studies have attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for conditions ranging from asthma to infertility — and the findings have been mixed. After reviewing hundreds of studies, the NIH found that acupuncture was effective in relieving postoperative dental pain and chemotherapy-associated nausea. Other reviews found that acupuncture was effective in providing pain relief, says Manheimer, for problems such as arthritis, headaches, and elbow aches.
Typical Treatment: You lie on a table while the practitioner inserts needles into your skin for several minutes. Depending on the condition, you may need several sessions.
Approximate Cost: Between $50 to $125 for the first visit; $30 to $80 for follow-up visits.
For More Info: To find a licensed practitioner, go to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/.