Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating tiny needles into points on the body. The goal is usually to relieve relieving pain.
Whether or not acupuncture really works remains under debate in the medical community. A recent review (2007) found that the evidence supporting the use of acupuncture is growing. Research is ongoing in the areas of chronic low back pain, neck and/or headache pain, nausea, and quitting smoking. The evidence seems to show that acupuncture is effective for some (but not all) conditions.
Comparing true acupuncture with sham acupuncture has resulted in similar benefits. Patients receiving sham treatment were touched at various acupuncture points with a look-alike acupuncture needle. The sham needle was blunt (not sharp) and did not go through the skin.
In one large, well-designed study from Harvard Medical School, patients treated with the sham acupuncture actually had better results than the patients who received true acupuncture therapy. The researchers weren't sure what to make of their results. Clearly, more studies are needed to find out who can benefit from this modality. There is a need to identify the frequency and duration of acupuncture treatment in order to be most effective for each condition.