Acupuncture is a modality within the umbrella of East-Asian medicine, a system of treatment with 4000 years of empirical evidence. Originally documented around 200 BCE in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), acupuncture refers to the stimulation of strategic points along meridians in the body that pass through various organs, glands, vessels, and tissues. These meridians closely follow lines of fascia that encase and separate organ systems, whose collagen-rich consistency serve as a conductor of electricity within the fascial lines. When points are stimulated, an electrical signal is sent through the meridian to the areas of the body it passes through, allowing the blood, fluids, and energy (known as qi) to gather and correct themselves.
Think of an acupuncture point as a tiny light switch in a grand theater hall- when you flip the switch by the door you turn on a light on the stage. Although you can't see the wires, they exist underneath the surface.
Western medicine has found acupuncture useful in treating various conditions and has started integrating it into the modern hospital setting. The World Health Organization has listed 44 conditions for which they have found moderate to strong evidence in the use of acupuncture, including low-back pain, asthma, and hypertension.
Acupuncture is just one of many highly effective modalities in the East-Asian Medicine toolbox. Below is a summarized list of what else you may find in any East-Asian medicine treatment:
the combining of natural plant and/or animal matter to create a custom formulation for a patient's presenting pattern. For example, unlike Western pharmaceuticals that are designed to be "one size fits all" for a headache, East-Asian herbal medicine emphasizes custom design of formulas to treat the specific pattern that is causing the headache.
the act of burning dried mugwort over points to stimulate them. Moxibustion is used for many conditions, and is famously known for helping turn a breech baby before 35 weeks when applied to the point on the outside tip of the pinky toe (Bladder 67 Zhi Yin).
made famous in the US by Michael Phelps' "octopus marks" in the 2012 Olympics, cupping is the use of glass or plastic cups to suction areas of skin and muscle to relieve tension and encourage circulation of blood and lymph. It is used often to relieve sharp, stagnant pain in any area of the body and to encourage relaxation of muscles and subsequently the mind.
literally translated as "scraping evil", it involves scraping areas of skin to release toxins and muscle tension. Gua sha is used commonly to relieve neck tension and to kick a cold to the curb when it's first coming on.