Are you curious about acupuncture and wondering whether it could be a good option for you? From back pain, nerve, and immune issues, to even fertility goals, acupuncture is ever-growing in popularity.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves the insertion of fine filament needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing.
If you’re considering trying acupuncture, read this outline of the 20 benefits and risks of acupuncture you should know before starting out.
We’ll discuss the potential benefits of acupuncture backed by scientific research. However, we’ll also examine the potential disadvantages of acupuncture.
Benefits of Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been shown to alleviate various types of pain, such as migraines, chronic back pain, and osteoarthritis. This is believed to be due to the stimulation of the body’s natural painkillers, including endorphins and enkephalins.
This review article from 2008 explains how complex brain connections are stimulated during manual acupuncture, which may be responsible for the analgesic effect of the treatment.
A review of studies conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain.
Acupuncture may help to reduce stress and anxiety by stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. In addition, acupuncture has been found to lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.
A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies found that acupuncture reduced symptoms of anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder.
Learn more: Acupuncture for Anxiety
Acupuncture may help to improve the quality of sleep and alleviate insomnia. A meta-analysis of studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture was effective in improving sleep quality in people with insomnia.
It is believed that acupuncture may have input via neurotransmitters that affect sleep, such as serotonin.
Learn more: Acupuncture for Insomnia
Acupuncture may help to alleviate digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux.
A review of studies published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that acupuncture could be used in treating functional dyspepsia – part of a collection of conditions characterized by chronic indigestion among other issues known as FGIDs (functional gastrointestinal disorders).
“This meta-analysis found that AT was significantly associated with relief of FGIDs symptoms; however, the evidence level was moderate or low.”
Learn more: Acupuncture for Digestive Issues
Acupuncture may help to reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture reduced inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Learn more: Acupuncture for Arthritis
Acupuncture has been used as a complementary therapy for fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas.
Studies have suggested that acupuncture may provide relief for some people with fibromyalgia, reducing their pain levels and improving their quality of life.
The possible mechanisms by which acupuncture may help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms are:
- Through its effects on the nervous system: Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. Endorphins can help reduce pain and promote relaxation, which may be particularly beneficial for people with fibromyalgia.
- Acupuncture may help regulate the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are involved in the regulation of mood and pain perception.
- Modulation of Inflammation: a key issue at the core of Fibromyalgia.
Immune System Health
Acupuncture may help your immune system, perhaps through its beneficial effects on inflammation. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture seemed to be correlated with a benefit in some white blood cell counts for people with compromised immune systems during cancer treatment.
Learn more: Acupuncture for Immune Support
Acupuncture may help to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. A review of studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that acupuncture was effective in treating chronic headaches.
Learn more: Acupuncture for Headaches
Improved Menstrual Health
Acupuncture may help to regulate menstrual cycles, alleviate PMS symptoms, and reduce menstrual pain. A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies found that acupuncture reduced symptoms of PMS in some women.
Acupuncture can be beneficial for women who are having difficulty conceiving.
A systematic review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine revealed that acupuncture seems to have some benefit for those trying to conceive.
This study reported that “Acupuncture, selenium supplementation, weight loss, and psychotherapeutic intervention had 3 or more studies demonstrating beneficial effect.”
This may be due to improved blood flow or some other mechanism, but much more research is needed here.
Improved mood associated with pain
According to a study of forty-six volunteers suffering from chronic neck/shoulder stiffness, acupuncture may be a safe and effective treatment option. Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5733659/
Improved Mental Health
Acupuncture may help to improve mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving overall well-being. According to a meta-analysis of studies, acupuncture was found to be more effective than medication in reducing symptoms of depression.
Acupuncture has also been shown to improve anxiety symptoms in several studies. Learn more.
Risks of Acupuncture
Risk of Infection
If the acupuncturist does not use sterile needles, there is a risk of infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infections from acupuncture are rare but can occur if proper sterilization techniques are not followed.
Bleeding and Bruising
Acupuncture may cause bleeding or bruising at the site of the needle insertion. This is usually minor and temporary, but in rare cases, it can be more severe. Learn more: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156488
Risk of Puncture
There is a small risk of the needle puncturing an organ or causing other damage. This risk is low but can occur if the needle is inserted too deeply or in the wrong location.
Acupuncture may cause dizziness or fainting in some people, especially if they are not well-hydrated or have low blood sugar. It’s important to stay well-hydrated and eat a small snack before the session.
Acupuncture may cause nerve damage, especially if the needle is inserted too deeply or in the wrong location. This is rare but can occur in sensitive areas such as the face or hands. Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4655680/
Acupuncture may be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. The cost of acupuncture sessions can vary widely depending on location, experience of the acupuncturist, and the type of treatment.
It’s important to check with your insurance provider to see if acupuncture is covered under your plan. Some acupuncturists may offer sliding scale fees or package deals to make treatment more affordable. [Learn more]
Lack of Regulation
In some areas, there is a lack of regulation of acupuncture, which may increase the risk of unsafe practices. Unlike conventional medicine, which is regulated by government agencies such as the FDA, acupuncture is regulated on a state-by-state basis.
In some areas, there may be little to no regulation of acupuncture, which can make it difficult to ensure that practitioners are properly trained and using safe techniques.
Acupuncture may cause fatigue in some people. While most people feel relaxed and energized after an acupuncture session, some people may experience fatigue or drowsiness. This is a normal response to the treatment and should subside within a few hours.
Make sure you drink plenty of water and rest after an acupuncture session to allow your body to fully heal and recover.
Disadvantages of Acupuncture
- Acupuncture needles can cause bleeding, bruising, and pain.
- There is a small risk of infection if the acupuncturist doesn’t use sterile needles.
- Acupuncture can cause dizziness or fainting in some people.
- In some countries, there is a lack of regulation of acupuncture, which can increase the risk of unsafe practices.
- There is a risk of nerve damage if the needle is inserted too deeply or in the wrong location.
While the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for health conditions is still somewhat mixed, many people report improvement in their symptoms after receiving acupuncture treatments.
It’s worth mentioning that acupuncture should be used as a complementary therapy, rather than a standalone treatment, and that it may not be effective for everyone.
Please be aware that all the information on physickle.com is strictly for general education purposes only.
Nothing viewed on this site should delay you from seeking out medical advice or substitute any advice, diagnosis or treatment prescribed by your health professional – please see our website terms if you’d like any more clarification.