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).
An acupuncture treatment is a type of integrative health care session that uses needles (and sometimes heat and/or electrical stimulation) to stimulate the body’s nervous system to begin a healing process. Long practiced in traditional Chinese medicine and other Eastern cultures, acupuncture has gained widespread acceptance and use as a complementary and integrative part of healing in Western medicine. During an acupuncture treatment, the patient lies in a relaxed position on a table that is very similar to a massage table. The acupuncturist, having done a diagnosis of health concerns and determined a course of treatment, will insert thin stainless steel needles into the prescribed acupuncture points. These points are determined by the patient’s health needs. The practitioner may gently manipulate the needles to trigger a healing response in the body. Typically there is no pain associated with the treatment. A session may use anywhere from 6-30 needles or more, depending on what illness is being treated. The needles can remain in place for 5-30 minutes, with 15 minutes being a common time. Acupuncture treatments are often prescribed in a series, based on patient need.