Acupuncture is one of the most popular alternative medicine treatments today. Many people believe it will cure all kinds of health problems, but there are some serious concerns with its effectiveness. Some studies have shown that acupuncture may not work at all, while other research shows that it might actually cause harm. There’s no way to tell which is true because there isn’t enough evidence yet to say whether or not acupuncture works.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a type of Chinese medicine that uses needles to stimulate specific points on the body. Acupuncturists use different types of needles depending on what they’re trying to treat. For example, some acupuncturists use thin needles to numb certain parts of your body, while others use long thin needles to reach deeper into your muscles and organs.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The idea behind acupuncture is that the needles affect how your nerves function. When you apply pressure to a nerve, it sends electrical impulses through your brain. These impulses then travel up the nerve and eventually reach the rest of your body where they trigger various reactions in your nervous system. One common reaction is relaxation, which helps reduce pain and inflammation.
Acupuncturists believe that by stimulating specific nerves, they can get your body to trigger certain reactions and changes. This is how many alternative medicines, such as chiropractic care, work.
The idea behind these types of medicine is that if you treat the root cause of a problem, rather than just the symptoms, then you will experience long-lasting effects on your health.
What Conditions Can Acupuncture Help With?
There are many conditions that acupuncturists treat with acupuncture. There are a few that are quite common.
Headaches and Migraines
Acupuncture can help with headaches and migraines by regulating the flow of blood in your body. When you experience a headache or migraine, it’s usually because blood vessels in your head have tightened up.
Acupuncture uses pressure points on your body to relax your blood vessels and relieve pressure.
If you have chronic pain, your nerves may be oversensitive to pressure. Acupuncture is thought to regulate your body’s reaction to pain.
Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety and depression are usually treated with medications that adjust the levels of serotonin in your brain. Some alternative medicines, like acupuncture, try to achieve this result through different means.
Acupuncture is thought to impact the balance of chemicals in your brain that control mood and relaxation.
If you have trouble sleeping, acupuncture might help. Acupuncture is believed to release endorphins in your brain that trigger a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness.
What Conditions Shouldn’t Be Treated With Acupuncture?
There are some conditions that should be taken caution with when undergoing acupuncture. If you have a serious medical condition or take prescription medication, you should consult with your doctor before going to an acupuncturist. Additionally, acupuncture might not be the best choice if you’re pregnant.
What Are the Potential Side Effects?
Many people don’t experience any negative side effects after getting acupuncture. If you do experience side effects after getting acupuncture, they are typically minor and temporary. For example, you might experience soreness, mild aching, or a temporary bruising at the area that was treated. In some cases, you may feel lightheaded after treatment.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you have a serious medical condition you should consult with your doctor before getting acupuncture. Certain conditions might not be appropriate for acupuncture treatment.
Additionally, if you’re taking any prescription medicine, it’s important to let your acupuncturist know before treatment. Certain medicines may react with the needles and cause adverse effects.
Sources & references used in this article:
Long‐term follow‐up of patients treated with acupuncture for xerostomia and the influence of additional treatment by M Blom, T Lundeberg – Oral diseases, 2000 – Wiley Online Library
Tension neck syndrome treated by acupuncture combined with physiotherapy: a comparative clinical trial (pilot study) by DLM França, V Senna-Fernandes, CM Cortez… – … therapies in medicine, 2008 – Elsevier
… I–II study in the use of acupuncture-like transcutaneous nerve stimulation in the treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia in head-and-neck cancer patients treated … by RKW Wong, GW Jones, SM Sagar, AF Babjak… – International Journal of …, 2003 – Elsevier
Acupuncture vs intravenous morphine in the management of acute pain in the ED by MH Grissa, H Baccouche, H Boubaker… – The American journal of …, 2016 – Elsevier
Acupuncture and hypnotic suggestions in the treatment of non-organic male sexual dysfunction by S Aydin, M Ercan, T Çaşkurlu, AI Taşçi… – … journal of urology …, 1997 – Taylor & Francis
The safety and efficacy of acupuncture for erectile dysfunction: a network meta-analysis by J Wang, Y Zhou, H Dai, B Bao, J Dang, X Li, B Wang… – Medicine, 2019 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Traditional Chinese medical therapy for erectile dysfunction by H Li, H Jiang, J Liu – Translational andrology and urology, 2017 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Clinical observation on post-stroke anxiety neurosis treated by acupuncture by W Ping, L Songhai – Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2008 – Elsevier