Acupuncture is part of the larger practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the placement of hair thin, filiform needles that are placed at various points around the body to help induce healing. The needles are inserted at special acupuncture points, which are located along 20 - meridian energy channels (subtle electromagnetic lines) that flow through the limbs, organs, and spinal regions of the body. These meridians carry the "chi" to all regions of the body, keeping them supplied with the electromagnetic energy they need to be healthy and strong. Along these meridian channels are hundreds of special access points, simply called "acupuncture points" that allow an acupuncturist to stimulate the chi by inserting and manipulating a filiform needle. These needles help balance the chi flowing through that meridian, which induces health, wellbeing, and healing in the region that is affected. According to Chinese Medicine, all sickness and dis-ease is considered to be a blockage causing an interruption in the flow of chi.
Chinese Medicine is not limited to just acupuncture, some practitioners are just acupuncturists, but some are trained in the complete system of Traditional Chinese internal medicine (Bridgette Kinder owner of Ageless Acupuncture is a Chinese Medicine practitioner). This means that those who are fully trained have many tools "up their sleeves" to increase and balance the flow of chi in the meridians, as well as increasing general circulation to affected areas. Some of the other practices in Chinese Medicine are, but not limited to: Moxa - burning a cigar like compressed stick of mugwort that is held above a point, or moved slowly along a meridian; cupping - small glass bowls that are quickly heated inside to create a vacuum then placed on the skin, creating suction; gua sha - the scraping of the skin surface with a Chinese soup spoon; tuina - Chinese massage, and herbal medicine - which is the most complex aspect of this practice taking many years to learn. All these practices within Chinese medicine are centered around balancing the flow of chi, including the herbal medicine, but there are also practices in this field, generally only practiced in China, that involve the healing of damaged limbs, cuts, bruises, and spinal subluxations etc...
In the United States, acupuncturists have to attend 3-years of school to obtain a masters degree. The training includes many classes in western anatomy, bio med, biology, and Chinese medical theory. Students often have to complete up to 1,000 clinic hours during the process and then eventually graduate from the program. After which they have to take the state, or national licensing exam in order to legally practice. However, Chinese Medicine is a very complex medical system, so the learning process continues throughout the acupuncturists life.
Bridgette Kinder (owner of Ageless Acupuncture) is a Chinese Medicine practitioner and an Ayurvedic Practitioner, located in Saratoga Springs, NY. She graduated from Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine in Aug 2008, and has been licensed and practicing acupuncture since September 2008.
For more detailed information on acupuncture please read the Wikipedia page on acupuncture .