Acupuncture is a healing technique from traditional Chinese medicine which relies on stimulating precise points on the body. Typically this is done using very thin needles. An extensive description of this ancient healing technique can be found here.
Evidence for the Effectiveness of Acupuncture
The Chinese began using acupuncture possibly as long as 5,000-7,000 years ago, and it has been incorporated into many healing traditions since that time. Originally tightly tied to the Chinese concept of Qi (or “life energy”), many modern scientists and therapists also think in terms of the nervous system and directly stimulating nerve endings in order to alter brain function (particularly those associated with pain receptors). There have been multiple studies that indicate that acupuncture may help with various types of chronic pain (such as neck pain, lower back pain, and knee pain), as well as helping with tension headaches and possibly preventing migraines. We are only just beginning to understand how acupuncture works, but it is clearly heavily entrenched in the overall mind-body healing system.
Are there side effects?
There have been very few complications or side effects reported from the use of acupuncture, and most of what has been reported appears to be the result of negligent care (non-sterilized needles, etc.). You should always verify that your acupuncturist is trained and licensed.