Normal results from acupuncture are relief of pain and/or improvement of the condition being treated. As is true with other forms of medical treatment, a minority of patients do not respond to acupuncture. The reasons for nonresponsiveness are not known at the present stage of research.
The purpose of acupuncture in TCM is the rebalancing of opposing energy forces in different parts of the body. In Western terms, acupuncture is used most commonly as an adjunctive treatment for the relief of chronic or acute pain. In the United States, acupuncture is most widely used to treat pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders, but it has also been used in the treatment of headaches, other painful disorders, and nausea and vomiting. In addition to these disorders, acupuncture has been used to treat a variety of disorders such as asthma, infertility, depression, anxiety, HIV infection, and fibromyalgia, although its efficacy in relieving these disorders is largely unproven. Acupuncture should not be used to treat traumatic injuries and other emergency conditions requiring immediate surgery. Also, while it appears to have benefits in relieving symptoms such as pain under the proper circumstances, it has not been shown to alter the underlying course of a disease. The exact mechanism by which acupuncture works is not known. Studies have demonstrated a variety of physiologic effects such as release in the brain of various chemicals and hormones, alteration of immune function, blood pressure, and body temperature.