Acupuncture, a time-honored Chinese practice of using sterilized needles to stimulate and balance the body’s energy channels, has been found to be effective at treating many different types of diseases and conditions.

Acupuncture in the U.S. is most often used to treat pain conditions, such as lower back pain and headaches. Many others, however, have found its use (along with prescribed herbs) to help with conditions when traditional methods of medicine didn’t work.

While research is still exploring exactly why acupuncture works, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that acupuncture may help with pain because it activates opioid systems in the brain that help regulate and manage pain.

For some conditions, acupuncture has been proven effective through the use of controlled trials, while other treatment areas require more rigorous study and further proof.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), research has shown that acupuncture is effective in treating:

  • Depression
  • Dysmenorrhoea (extreme menstrual cramps)
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Hypertension and hypotension
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Dental pain
  • Periarthritis of the shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprains
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

While further research is needed, the World Health Organization has also found evidence of acupuncture’s benefits for cancer pain, fibromyalgia, post-herpetic neuralgia, osteoarthritis, and chronic prostatitis.

In addition to using acupuncture for specific health concerns, many people also use acupuncture as a preventative measure. In traditional Chinese medicine, semi-regular tune-ups are more common than treatments based around specific health conditions. Preventative care may entail two to four visits throughout the year and may help re-balance the body, promote health, and prevent disease.

When considering acupuncture, first talk to your doctor or pain therapist about your options. There may be treatments that are more effective for your specific pain condition that your doctor can recommend, or they can provide a referral for a recommended acupuncturist in your area.

Have you ever undergone acupuncture for a pain condition? 

Image by Thunderchild via Flickr

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