Acupuncture is the use of fine needles placed in acupuncture points. The technique has been used for over five thousand years. A comprehensive system was developed in the far east and this was first introduced into Europe in the 17th century. However, widespread interest in the technique did not develop until the political events of the 1970's allowed travel restrictions between east and west to be eased.
Because of increasing public interest in the subject over the last thirty or forty years, considerable scientific research has been carried out, though much remains to be done. Much more is known about how acupuncture works and some of the myths about it can be laid to rest. It is demonstrably untrue to say that the effects of acupuncture are all in the mind.
Modern imaging techniques have demonstrated changes in brain activity - particularly those areas responsible for the processing of pain and suffering. Current research shows that acupuncture can affect most of the body's systems - the nervous system, muscle tone, hormone production, circulation, and allergic responses, as well as the respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems.
Acupuncture is therefore effective in a wide range of painful conditions and is generally used to treat musculoskeletal pain, for example in the back, neck, shoulder and leg.
In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that acupuncture should be made available on the NHS, as a cost-effective short-term treatment for the management of early, persistent, non-specific lower back pain.