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Andrew C Ahn, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Mark D Aronson, MD
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


The word "acupuncture" is derived from the Latin words "acus" (needle) and "punctura" (penetration). Acupuncture originated in China approximately 2000 years ago and is one of the oldest medical procedures in the world.

Over its long history and dissemination, acupuncture has diversified and encompasses a large array of styles and techniques. Common styles include Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and French acupuncture, as well as specialized forms such as hand, auricular, and scalp acupuncture.

Acupuncture also refers to a family of procedures used to stimulate anatomical points. Aside from needles, acupuncturists can incorporate manual pressure, electrical stimulation, magnets, low-power lasers, heat, and ultrasound.

Despite this diversity, the techniques most frequently used and studied are manual manipulation and/or electrical stimulation of thin, solid, metallic needles inserted into skin. Except where specifically stated, "acupuncture" in this topic refers to these two most common procedures.

A general discussion of acupuncture is presented here. Additional discussions of acupuncture for rheumatic conditions and cancer are presented separately. (See "Complementary and alternative therapies for cancer", section on 'Acupuncture and related therapies'.)

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 20, 2017.
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