Acupuncture can be helpful for treating a wide variety of conditions ranging from cancer to headaches to sciatic nerve pain. It may also be useful for:
- Back pain, neck pain, knee pain, hand and foot pain, wrist and ankle pain, sciatic pain, nerve pain, arthritis, sports injuries, work-related injuries, TMJ, and carpal tunnel
- Whiplash and injuries from automobile accidents
- Migraine and tension headaches
- Menstrual cramping
- Herniated discs
- Emotional issues: Anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia
- Women’s health: Prenatal and postpartum care, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, symptoms of menopause and infertility
- Pediatric problems such as bedwetting, digestive upset, ear infection, allergies, hyperactivity and injury treatment
- Digestive disorders such as heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and constipation
- Respiratory problems such as asthma, acute and chronic cough, allergies, and chronic sinus problems
- Men’s health problems such as erectile dysfunction, impotence, male infertility, urination difficulties and prostate problems
- Miscellaneous conditions such as fatigue, adrenal fatigue, vertigo and dizziness, eye and vision problems, and tooth, jaw and dental issues
There are many proven health benefits of acupuncture, whether you’re seeking short-term relief or need help with a chronic health condition. This alternative healing is likely why millions of adults nationwide get acupuncture treatments each year. Acupuncture provides pain relief, can help speed the body’s natural healing process, and has also been proved to have positive outcomes on mental health concerns such as depression. Acupuncture can also help relieve discomfort associated with chronic and terminal illnesses. For example, acupuncture has been proved to be effective in helping cancer patients manage pain, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hot flashes, xerostomia (dry mouth), neuropathy (nervous system problems), anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances, according to Cancer.gov. Acupuncture is a safe and effective alternative to opioids and other pain medications, which not only are hard on the body but also present the risk of addiction. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services found that people had less pain or were better able to manage pain when they received acupuncture as part of their health treatment.
Acupuncture works by restoring the body’s natural healing powers. Acupuncture involves placing very thin needles into specific points on the body to influence the body’s energy flow and help the body heal itself in a natural way. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is linked to the belief that disease is caused by disruptions to the flow of energy (called qi in Chinese) in the body. The acupuncturist places whisper-thin needles into the arms, back, neck and other areas where the chi (or energy flow) has been blocked. The acupuncture needles stimulate points on or under the skin called acupuncture points or acupressure points, releasing this qi. These pathways — called “meridians” — become re-stimulated by the needles to bring blood and healing to the body. In Western medicine, acupuncture has been proved to relieve pain and help provide healing and relief from painful symptoms associated with everything from headaches to asthma to cancer. Western medicine sees the use of the needles as a way to stimulate the body’s nervous system, thereby prompting healing.
The general consensus from doctors, researchers and government health organizations is that yes, it is safe to have acupuncture. As with all things, there can be some risks associated with acupuncture, but with proper attention to a few key details, your health should be in good hands when you receive treatments.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (a branch of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) states that “relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been reported. Still, complications have resulted from use of non-sterile needles and improper delivery of treatments.” Thus, the health risks associated with acupuncture are generally a result of human error (non-sterile needles and improper placement) as opposed to how acupuncture works in your body. Research your acupuncture provider to make sure they meet state regulations, and inquire about the use of FDA-regulated acupuncture needles. These are classified as medical devices for use by licensed practitioners, and the NCCIH states they are required to be manufactured and labeled according to certain standards (sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use only).
The positive effects of acupuncture may vary in length. Relief may be permanent, effects may be immediate but require regular sessions to maintain, or effects can occur cumulatively over a number of treatments. The health issue you’re having treated, your overall health, and the measures you take to care for yourself after treatment can all have an effect on the duration of the effects. If you’re in a lot of pain, healing from an injury or suffering from a chronic health condition, you may need more visits to see lasting results. For acute conditions you may need from one to three treatments to experience results, while chronic health issues may take six sessions or more.
You don’t need to be sick or have something wrong to get acupuncture. Acupuncture also helps with stress management, relaxation and keeping your body in good working order. Acupuncture cost will be affected by the number of sessions needed. Sometimes people will feel a little tired after a session, and sometimes the main symptom can be slightly aggravated for a temporary period — but that’s the body’s natural healing response and you’ll see improvement after that. An additional advantage is that acupuncture does not cause adverse effects as prescription drugs can.