Is acupuncture helpful?

Acupuncture is something many of us have heard about before. What can it actually treat though? In this article, I will discuss some of the conditions it can treat. I will also make mention of some things you should consider before initiating care.

Brief acupuncture background

Acupuncture is the longest existing mostly continuously practiced form of medicine in all of history. It has been practice for approximately 3,000 years. Knowledge was passed on from generation to generation and eventually codified into a text called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine”. The text dates back to 100 BCE. Over time the practice of acupuncture was refined and the insertion points became more specific with measurements of point locations being referenced in relation to anatomy. Although more and more people in the West are being turned onto acupuncture, in China it is regarded as a standard practice of medicine that is administered in the hospitals along side Western Medicine. To give you an idea of how efficacious acupuncture can be for pain management, it is not uncommon for an acupuncturist in China to administered an acupuncture treatment pre and post surgery in lieu of analgesia.

Seen in clinic

In my individual practice, I treat many individuals for common conditions most of us have heard of or deal with ourselves. Conditions range from sleep disruptions, headaches, allergies, neck pain/ back pain/ shoulder pain, gastrointestinal issues (acid reflux, bloating and gas, constipation, loose stools), stress, anxiety, fertility challenges, skin conditions, autoimmune conditions, as well as many others. 

After mounting evidence from clinical trials the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has formally acknowledged acupuncture for it’s value in relieving pain, nausea after surgery or chemotherapy, and morning sickness; and effectiveness in treating conditions, such as headaches, asthma, stroke rehabilitation, and fibromyalgia.

In clinic the two most common reasons people initiate care is for pain relief and fertility support. Those who are looking for pain relief have already tried stretching, seen a chiropractor, and adjusted their working positions yet they are still in pain. Those who are experiencing fertility challenges have tried to conceive naturally and/or even initiated Assistive Reproductive Technology. These patients have read that acupuncture can be helpful for aiding in blood flow to the uterus, as well as helping with egg quality and hormone production. After people see improvements in the aforementioned areas they will likely be more open to treating other conditions. For many of my patients I have become the first line of treatment for when they catch a cold, have seen a period of disrupted sleep, or are experiencing something like sciatica or plantar fasciitis. Patients will make an appointment with me to get acupuncture before taking more extreme measures like taking a sleeping pill or getting a steroid injection.

If you are considering acupuncture there are some things you should consider ahead of time. Although acupuncture can provide a relaxing experience for you, very rarely is one treatment enough to significantly impact your condition. Depending on what you are dealing with there will usually be a recommendation of something like 8-10 treatments before seeing significant improvements. You should generally be seeing things move in a positive direction before those 8-10 treatments have been completed. The other thing to keep in mind is that your acupuncturist may make dietary or behavioral suggestions for you to implement outside of your appointment. You deciding to follow their guidance or not will impact the speed at which you see improvements.

If you are curious if acupuncture can benefit something you are dealing with it’s worth a try to do a consult with a licensed acupuncturist!