Everyone from Kung-Fu Panda to Penelope Cruz is sporting acupuncture needles these days Рand, it seems, with good reason.

This most ancient and least understood Chinese therapy (they stick needles all over you) has sneaked into mainstream medical practice, in very specific areas, now that reliable studies have convincingly demonstrated its benefits.

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for a host of conditions, including: adverse reactions and nausea related to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy; seasonal allergies, depression, menstrual cramps, headache, high blood pressure, knee and lower-back pain, morning sickness, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and tennis elbow. And acupuncture is now offered in many North American hospitals (the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine provides more than 10,000 treatments annually) and by the U.S. Department of Defense to treat soldiers suffering acute and chronic pain.

If you are thinking about trying acupuncture for pain relief or to augment treatment for heart problems, allergies or headache, or to increase the effectiveness of fertility treatments, here’s our advice about how to proceed.

1. Ask if your physician knows an acupuncturist whom he or she would recommend. If not, go to nccaom.org for a nationally certified practitioner in your area. (Some MDs are certified, and insurance may cover their treatments.)

2. Don’t rely on acupuncture alone for treatment of chronic or serious illnesses unless you see a physician first.

3. Make sure your acupuncturist uses sterile, prepackaged, one-time-only needles. Ask!

4. For best resul ts, go through the entire course of treatment.

Originally posted on The Province

Menu