At least 3000-5000 years old from documentation.

Archeologists have found both acupuncture needles and divination bones on which medical discussions were inscribed dating to the late Shang Dynasty (~1000 B.C.). In 1991, a mummified man who lived around 3300 B.C. was found in the Otztal Alps with tattoos on either side of his spine, behind his knee and around his ankle. These tattoos coincide with acupuncture points and it is speculated they were used to mark the treatment area.

​The oldest medical texts were written around the 4th century A.D., including the very important Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon).


The Western world has many research supported theories as to how Acupuncture works, here are six:

(Click here for articles that support the theories below.)

  • Immunity Theory - Acupuncture increases white blood cell count and has a regulatory effect on the immune system. Studies were conducted where patients' blood was collected before and after an acupuncture treatment. White blood cells were significantly increased in the acupuncture group verses the control. Many diseases are linked to a weak immune system. If you are immunocompromised or just want to maintain your health acupuncture can supplement your body. 
  • Endorphin Theory - As early as 1977, studies concluded that acupuncture triggers our bodies to release Endorphins, especially Enkephalins. Endorphins are our bodies' natural pain killers. Studies have shown that patients had a significantly higher amount of endorphins in their cerebral spinal fluid after acupuncture. 
  • Neurotransmitter Theory - Research shows that acupuncture increases Serotonin and Norepinephrine. A study conducted with fibromyalgia patients showed that after acupuncture serum Serotonin and Substance P (a neurotransmitter important in pain perception) significantly increased therefore decreasing the patients' pain. Increased Serotonin can also help with depression, anxiety, addiction, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Serotonin levels are affected by sugar intake and low Serotonin levels may cause sugar cravings. 
  • Circulatory Theory - Acupuncture increases blood flow and decreases inflammation. Color Doppler Imaging (CDI) creates images of human blood vessels and quantitatively evaluates blood flow in real-time. Research with CDI and acupuncture showed that blood flow was dramatically increased after acupuncture. A study published in the scientific journal Neurobiology of Disease on treating spinal cord injuries found acupuncture inhibits caspase-3 activation and reduced the expression of proinflammatory factors. Increasing blood flow to an area of injury will help it heal faster.
  • Gate Control Theory - Acupuncture interrupts the transformation of pain being sent, but not received. Stimulation by an acupuncture needle bombards the neuron and stops the passage of stronger pain signals down the same nerve thus producing an analgesic effect. This is how acupuncture anesthesia can allow doctors to perform surgery on patients while they are awake.
  • Weight Loss Theory - Acupuncture helps regulate obesity related hormones, boosts metabolism and improves digestion. Research measuring the effectiveness of acupuncture on weight loss found that it increased hormones cholecystokinin (regulated diet and satiety) and ghrelin (regulates hunger), while decreasing insulin (regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism) and leptin (regulates hunger).

The Eastern theory regarding acupuncture is much more complex. There are 12 primary channels throughout the body that run vertically, bilaterally and symmetrically. Each channel is named after a primary organ (Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Urinary Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, San Jiao [a chinese system], Gallbladder, and Liver). When an acupuncturist speaks of these organs they may not be talking about the literal organ, but more of the organ pathway. There are hundreds of points on these channels. Each point is considered to be where Qi is known to collect. Qi, blood and fluids are supposed to flow smoothly throughout the body. Disease occurs when there is stagnation. When stagnation occurs, a nodule, pain or heat may be felt at that point, and inserting a needle will unblock the stagnation. Sometimes points are empty or feel hollow, so a needle is inserted to supplement the point by bringing Qi to the area.  In each of these cases a different needling technique is used. Based on your intake, a good practitioner will know which points and technique to use. Your initial intake form will give your practitioner information to start treating you, but you should report any changes or additional concerns you have at follow up appointments.


Qi is a fundamental unit in East Asian Medicine that has not yet been explained by Western Scientists. There are entire books written about Qi. It has been loosely defined as energy or life-force, but most scholars will say this too is wrong. A practitioner and their patient will feel something when the needle has stimulated Qi. For the patient it can be best described as a dull achey heavy sensation, but each acupuncture point has a different Qi sensation. Many people will say it's a nerve sensation, but if a needle hits a nerve, it is very painful. So while Western Scientists catch up with the East, we will have to wait for a more solid definition that better explains Qi.


Acupuncture should not cause much pain, but the needle may hurt as it breaks the skin, usually this pain goes away quickly. Once the needle is inserted it will be gently manipulated until Qi is felt. How acupuncture feels will vary depending on where the needle is placed on the body. If you are sick or on your menses it may be more sensitive. If you are sensitive, your practitioner can change the thickness of the needle, or may have you do breathing exercises while the needles are inserted to reduce sensation. Overall most patients do not consider acupuncture to be painful and they find the benefits outweigh any discomfort.


As a reference, around 20 acupuncture needles can fit in one hypodermic needle. The size of the acupuncture needle varies from 28-40 gauge or .16-.35mm. 



As a reference, around 20 acupuncture needles can fit in one hypodermic needle. The size of the acupuncture needle varies from 28-40 gauge or .16-.35mm.



No, acupuncture needles are single use and are disposed of after being used. 


Acupuncture treats a wide variety of symptoms, conditions and diseases. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture.

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis   
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow  

The WHO lists the following symptoms, diseases and conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown, but further proof is needed.

  • Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
  • Acne vulgaris
  • Alcohol dependence and detoxification
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Cancer pain
  • Cardiac neurosis
  • Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
  • Cholelithiasis
  • Competition stress syndrome
  • Craniocerebral injury, closed
  • Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
  • Earache
  • Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
  • Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
  • Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
  • Female infertility
  • Facial spasm
  • Female urethral syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
  • Gastrokinetic disturbance
  • Gouty arthritis
  • Hepatitis B virus carrier status
  • Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
  • Hyperlipaemia
  • Hypo-ovarianism
  • Insomnia
  • Labour pain
  • Lactation, deficiency
  • Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
  • Ménière disease
  • Neuralgia, post-herpetic
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Obesity
  • Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain due to endoscopic examination
  • Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)
  • Postextubation in children
  • Postoperative convalescence
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Prostatitis, chronic
  • Pruritus
  • Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
  • Raynaud syndrome, primary
  • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Retention of urine, traumatic
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sialism, drug-induced
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
  • Spine pain, acute
  • Stiff neck
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Tietze syndrome
  • Tobacco dependence
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis, chronic
  • Urolithiasis
  • Vascular dementia​ 
  • Whooping cough (pertussis)


This will depend on what you are wanting to work on. It is important to know that one acupuncture treatment will not adequately address your issues. Try to commit to 10 treatments before you make an opinion about its efficacy, although you should see results before that.