Acupuncture is an age-old healing practice of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are placed at specific points in the body. It’s primarily used to relieve pain but also has been used to treat other conditions. More than 3 million Americans use it but it is even more popular in other countries. In France, for example, one in five people has tried it. Overall, acupuncture is moderately effective in treating pain and nausea.
Acupuncture: How it Works
Acupuncture releases the flow of the body’s vital energy or “chi” by stimulating points along 14 energy pathways. The needles prompt the body to release endorphins (natural painkillers), and can boost blood flow and change brain activity. Skeptics say it works only because people believe it will, an effect called the placebo effect.
Acupuncture: Effective For Back Pain
One large study found that acupuncture worked better than conventional treatments for back pain that had lasted more than three months.
Acupuncture: Reduces Headache Time Recovery
It may help relieve migraines or tension headaches. Two large studies found that people receiving it had fewer days with tension headaches than those receiving conventional care.
Acupuncture: Effective In Treating Fibromyalgia Side Affects
A study by the Mayo Clinic found that acupuncture reduced fatigue and anxiety. Knee pain was also reduced with this treatment.
Acupuncture: Dental Pain
It provides relief from the pain of tooth extraction or dental surgery. Dental pain is considered by many to be one of the conditions that responds to this treatment.
Acupuncture: Chronic Pain
Several recent studies conducted by scientists in Europe and the United States have found that it is moderately effective in treating chronic pain. Effectiveness increases when it’s paired with either pain medicine or massage.
Treatment at the point on the wrist can reduce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, even after cancer drug treatments or surgery. Studies compared 10 different methods, including needles and electrical stimulation, to drugs that block nausea or vomiting and found the acupuncture treatments worked.
Acupuncture: Cancer Care
It lessens pain, nausea, and vomiting, and is sometimes used to help people cope with symptoms of chemotherapy. It also can help manage hot flashes associated with breast cancer.
Acupuncture: Quit Smoking
It has been used for a variety of other conditions, including smoking cessation, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and allergies.
Acupuncture: How to Use It
It rarely causes more than mild side effects, and therefore is a potential alternative to pain medications or steroid treatments. It is also considered a “complementary” medicine that can be used along with other treatments.
However, people with bleeding disorders or who take blood thinners may have increased risk of bleeding. Electrical stimulation of the needles can cause problems for people with pacemakers or other electrical devices.
Overall, It appears that one should not rely on acupuncture alone to treat diseases or severe pain. But, it has proven effective for some conditions, when paired with standard medical treatments.