(Lat.: acus = needle, punctio = puncturing, Chinese 針砭 zhēn biān) is a sub-category of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The term was coined by the Dutch physician Willem ten Rhijne, who had observed the treatment being used by Chinese healers.

Acupuncture is based on the belief that the body's vital energy, Qi, runs along certain pathways, or meridians, and has a regulating influence on all of the body's functions. Disruption to this flow of energy causes illness and is remedied by placing needles on the relevant acupuncture points located along the meridians.
Clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for pain caused by knee arthritis, for chronic lower back pain and in the prevention of migraine attacks. The effectiveness of acupuncture has been found to be significantly higher than conventional Western medicine treatments for these conditions. In the GERAC trials (German Acupuncture Trials, 2002 - 2007) involving the treatment of lower back pain, 47.6 % of acupuncture patients demonstrated an appreciable improvement compared to just 27.4 % of the patients treated with conventional medicine.

How it is done
An acupuncture session takes around 20 to 30 minutes. The patient is positioned so he or she is calm and relaxed, typically lying down or sitting comfortably. Before the needle is inserted, the point and the area around it are massaged gently. All in all, 8-10 sessions are needed over a period of 4 weeks.
Generally speaking, when performed by a professional practitioner, acupuncture causes virtually no side effects. There may be a slight burning or numb feeling in the areas in which the needles were placed. Possible rare side effects include:

  • bruising at the needle site,
  • occasional appearance of a drop of blood at the needle site,
  • dizziness on acupuncture of certain points or

Acupuncture treatment for chronic pain in the lumbar spine or knees (in cases of knee arthritis) is free of charge. Since 1 January 2007, all of Germany's statutory health insurance organisations have assumed the costs of this treatment. The treatment of headache with acupuncture, however, has not been included in the list of agreed services.
Many private insurance companies, subsidy funds and the post office workers' insurance fund will meet the costs of acupuncture treatment if they are classified under the official scale of fees for physicians (GOÄ - Gebührenordnung für Ärzte). They may also pay for acupuncture treatment for other diagnoses, although these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis (please seek your insurer's advice first).