Many people wonder what is acupuncture? Although some people in the west are familiar with it, for most people it is a bizarre practice that involves sticking needles in someone.
Understanding what is acupuncture involves moving our ideas away from those of western medicine, with its powerful drugs and invasive treatments, and looking at far eastern medicine.
The practice is believed to have developed about 2000 years ago, as one of a number of practices that we collectively describe as Traditional Chinese Medicine.
According to the beliefs of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the key factor in human health is the flow of "Qi", a vital force that circulates throughout the body along pathways called meridians.
There are 12 main meridians, which roughly correspond to 12 major organs in the human body. If the flow of this Qi energy is blocked, disease and illness can occur. The treatment is therefore to gently insert the needles at key points along the medians to release the flow of blocked energy.
Once the energy is able to flow properly, we will recover from whatever is making us unwell.
There are different schools these days, with slightly different beliefs and treatments - for example, the Japanese school mainly uses shallow needle insertions.
This approach can be related to the growing understanding in western medicine of trigger points - areas of increased sensitivity within a muscle - which can often correlate to referred pain in another area of the body.