Acupuncture is based on the concept of qi (pronounced “chi”), a life force or energy that practitioners say flows through the body along 20 distinct routes called meridians. Blocked meridians are believed to cause illness by disrupting the flow of qi. Inserting acupuncture needles at specific points along specific meridians is thought to clear those blockages and restore qi’s natural flow, which in turn restores patients to health. Scientists have long understood that qi is not a legitimate biological entity; many studies have shown that the effects of acupuncture are the same whether needles are placed along the meridians or at random locations around the body. But the acupuncture proponents among them have argued that acupuncture itself might still work, albeit by an as yet unknown mechanism.
"The Acupuncture Myth" is from the August 2016 issue of Scientific American.