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Acupuncture is a method of treating disorders by inserting needles into various parts of the body. It was developed in China where it acquired an elaborate theoretical basis. Recently it has been taken up by a number of Western health professionals, many of whom have reinterpreted it in terms of modern anatomy, physiology and pathology. It can be assimilated easily into the rest of medical training.
In summary the needles are an effective means of affecting the peripheral nervous system and/or central nervous system processes which can give relief from pain. There is now a reasonable body of research to explain, at least in outline, how acupuncture might produce pain relief. However we are certainly a long way from being able to supply a complete explanation of acupuncture analgesia.
Knowledge of the potential risks of acupuncture is obviously the most important thing. It is generally remarkable safe if performed responsibly by someone with an adequate knowledge of anatomy. It is however an invasive procedure and this means certain dangers are inevitably present (Hagen & Peukar, 1999).
There is a wide range of responses to acupuncture in different patients. It can be estimated as 20% no response, 60% average response, 20% strong or very strong response.
Modern acupuncture is being used and accepted more in healthcare practice. In May 2009 NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) produced guidelines recommending a course of acupuncture needling (up to 10 sessions over/up to 12 weeks) for early treatment and management of persistent or recurrent low back pain defined as non-specific low back pain that has lasted for more than 6 weeks, but less than 12 months.