Alternative medicine refers to treatments that are used instead of conventional (standard) ones. If you use an alternative treatment along with conventional medicine or therapy, it is considered complementary therapy.
There are many forms of alternative medicine.
Acupuncture involves stimulating certain acupoints on the body using fine needles or other methods. How acupuncture works is not entirely clear. It is thought that acupoints lie near nerve fibers. When acupoints are stimulated, the nerve fibers signal the spinal cord and brain to release chemicals that relieve pain.
Acupuncture is an effective means of relieving pain, such as for back pain and headache pain. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain due to:
White JD. Complementary and alternative medicine. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 33.
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.