Acupuncture can be defined as the insertion of needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific sites (acupuncture points) for therapeutic or preventative purposes (Ernst et al. 2001). Sometimes other forms of point stimulation are used, electrical current (electroacupuncture), pressure (acupressure), heat (moxibustion) or laser light (laser acupuncture). Acupuncture is part of the ancient Chinese medical tradition. In recent years, a new style (Western acupuncture) has emerged, which no longer adheres to the Taoist philosophies underpinning Chinese acupuncture but seeks explanations for its mode of action from modern concepts of neurophysiology and other branches of medical science.
The evidence for or against the efficacy (or effectiveness) of acupuncture is highly heterogeneous and often contradictory. Thus single trials, even of good quality, may not provide a representative picture of the current evidence. The following section is therefore...
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