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Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions and relieve pain by triggering specific points on the skin with needles. It's now being used in many Western countries to ease everything from low back pain, to headaches, fibromyalgia, and menstrual cramps — and more. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific "acupoints."

This could relieve pain by releasing endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing chemicals, and by affecting the part of the brain that governs serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood. In Chinese acupuncture, the acupuncturist may turn or twirl the needles slightly or apply heat or electrical stimulation to enhance the effects. (Acupressure, a similar technique to acupuncture, does not use needles. Instead, the practitioner uses his or her hands to apply deep pressure at acupressure points.)

The Philosophy Behind Acupuncture

Acupuncture developed from a philosophy that relates to the whole of nature to understand how man’s body works and heals. It sees the human being not as separate from nature, but as an interrelated and integral part of it. And like nature, which is harmonious when it is in balance, so to the human body is healthy when it is balanced, when its organs function in harmony with one another, and when the energy within the body flows properly. The acupuncturist sees pain and illness as expressions of an imbalance within the body’s system of energy. They are diagnosed and treated in relation to the whole person (whereas standard western medicine tends to treat only the specific symptoms of the disease). The goals of acupuncture are thus to address the imbalances that are causing the pain and illness and to restore harmony in the internal energy (qi, pronounced chee) of the body. By doing this, acupuncture facilitates the healing of illness, the prevention of further disease, and the maintenance of optimal health.