Almost 50 years ago, New York Times reporter James Reston had an emergency appendectomy while traveling in China. His subsequent report1 that acupuncture produced substantial relief from his postoperative discomfort is widely credited with launching Western interest in acupuncture, although many Western medical practitioners have remained skeptical. Nevertheless, there has been steady progress in application of the methods of evidence-based medicine and modern neuroscience to these ancient practices, suggesting that acupuncture may have therapeutic benefit.
The evaluation involves at least 3 questions: Can acupuncture be studied rigorously? What is known about the benefits (and harms)? What is known about the mechanisms?