Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at certain points on the body.
It is a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). This means that acupuncture is different in important ways from treatments that are part of conventional western medicine. Unlike conventional treatments, the use of acupuncture is not always based on scientific evidence.
Acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or 'life force', flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced 'chee').
Practitioners who adhere to traditional beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi cannot flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe that acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.
Some scientists and acupuncturists believe that acupuncture may stimulate nerves and muscle tissue, and that this may be responsible for any beneficial effects.