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    Why Does Acupuncture Work?

    If You're Considering Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is safe if done correctly. If you're thinking about getting it, remember these tips:

    Acupuncture can be dangerous if you take certain medications, have a pacemaker, are at risk of infection, have chronic skin problems, or are pregnant. Talk to your doctor before you jump in.

    Check your acupuncturist's credentials. Most states require a license to practice it. You can get a referral from your doctor.

    Don't rely on a disease diagnosis you may get from an acupuncture practitioner unless they're also a licensed medical doctor. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture can provide a referral list of doctors who practice it.

    If you get a diagnosis from a doctor, ask him if acupuncture might help.

    Check your insurance. Some plans cover it. Some don't.

    The Final Word

    Doctors learn more about acupuncture each year. But still, no one fully understands how acupuncture works. Does it boost your body's painkilling ability? Does it affect your blood flow? Can it help your body manage depression to promote further healing? Scientists continue to study -- and debate -- the issues.

    But those who practice acupuncture say that's no reason to stop doing it. Danesh suggests we remember how aspirin became accepted as more than an over-the-counter painkiller.

    "It took years and years for us to figure out the exact molecular mechanisms, but we were [still] giving aspirin," Danesh says. 'You have a headache? Take aspirin.' 'You have back pain? Take aspirin.' You have heart problems? ...' We accepted that aspirin was used.

    “Acupuncture has good evidence [supporting it]. Just because we can't necessarily explain it down to the molecular level doesn't mean we need to abandon it."

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    Reviewed on May 19, 2016

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