The question of how does acupuncture work has been debated in the west for over a hundred years. However, in recent times we have finally started to understand the process.
So how does acupuncture work? The practice involves inserting slim needles at certain key points in the body - these are known as meridians, and are crucial for the flow of Qi, or life energy, around the body.
Practitioners believe that if these meridians become blocked, we become ill. The skilled practitioner, by locating the point of pain and knowing which meridians are involved, can thus treat the patient.
Attempts by western scientists to understand the process have tended to focus on nerve fibres. According to this type of analysis the insertion of the needles can inhibit the pain impulses carried by some nerves - because pain impulses are carried via the spinal cord to other parts of the body, it helps to explain why a needle placed in one part of the body can reduce the sensation of pain in another area.
In addition, it appears that the needles can stimulate the release of certain chemicals - in particular neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can reduce the sensation of pain.
Other aspects remain less well understood, but for those who have obtained relief from treatment, this is of little concern - the only important fact is that it works!