Acupuncture: ancient tradition meets modern science

Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. It has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. According to the philosophy of traditional acupuncture, energy circulates in ’meridians’ located throughout the body. When something occurs to cause this meridian energy circulation to be blocked, pain or ill health will result. The way to restore energy circulation, health, and balance, is to stimulate the appropriate combination of the estimated 400 traditional meridian acupuncture points in the body, generally by using fine stainless steel needles. In some cases a small electrical impulse is added to the needles.

Research suggests that acupuncture may work by stimulating the nervous system to release neurotransmitters involved in pain-suppressing mechanisms or by suppressing the nervous system pathways involved in the sensory and affective components of pain.

Given that it is a relatively safe treatment, the question of whether or not acupuncture is an effective healthcare treatment therefore is highly relevant. Cochrane Review Groups have been preparing Cochrane Reviews that assess the efficacy of acupuncture for different health questions. The Cochrane Complementary Medicine (CAM) Field supports and promotes the production of Cochrane Reviews of acupuncture, and has helped prepare this Special Collection of over 25 published Cochrane Reviews.

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