Acupuncture - Topic Overview
What is acupuncture used for?
People use acupuncture
to relieve pain and treat certain health conditions. You can use it by itself
or as part of a treatment program. Studies have found promising results for the
use of acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy,
chemotherapy, and postsurgery pain. Acupuncture also may be useful for:
- Stroke rehabilitationStroke rehabilitation, which involves relearning
skills that a person lost because of brain damage from a
- Headache. A study shows that
adding acupuncture to standard treatment leads to significant, long-lasting
relief from chronic headaches, especially
- Menstrual cramps.
- Tennis elbowTennis elbow.
or widespread pain and tenderness of muscle and soft tissue.
- Myofascial painMyofascial pain, caused by spasm in the
- OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis, or the breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. A study
found that acupuncture can reduce knee pain and increase movement of the knee
in people with osteoarthritis.2
- Low back
pain. For people who have low back pain, acupuncture may help
decrease pain and increase activity. Some studies show that acupuncture reduced
pain and disability related to back problems more than usual treatment.3, 4 Another summary of several studies
showed that acupuncture reduced pain and increased the ability to be active,
but not any more than other treatments.5
- Carpal tunnel syndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome, or pressure on
a nerve in the wrist that results in tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of
the fingers and hand.
- AsthmaAsthma, or
inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs, resulting in periodic
episodes of difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and
- Drug addictionDrug addiction.
Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of
withdrawal after a person stops taking a drug he or
she is addicted to. It may also help prevent a
relapse. More studies are needed to learn about the
benefits of acupuncture.
- Dental pain.
Is acupuncture safe?
In general, acupuncture is safe
when done by a certified provider. A state license ensures that the
provider has a certain level of training and follows certain
guidelines. But there are still a few states where acupuncture is not
In very rare cases, problems may occur after acupuncture. You could get an infection, especially if the needles aren't sterile. But licensed providers throw away their needles after one use.
Make sure your provider uses a new pack of sterile needles every time.
Talk with your doctor if you have other questions about the safety of
acupuncture. Always tell your doctor if you are
using a treatment like acupuncture.
Choosing an acupuncturist
Check to see if your state licenses providers.
Many providers also may have a certificate from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This is a nonprofit group that promotes standards in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
Ask your doctor and friends for recommendations.
You also may want to pick a provider who:
- Will work on a treatment plan with you, your doctor, and other health professionals.
- Clearly explains what he or she is doing during treatment.
- Explains how often you may need treatment and how much it will cost.