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Acupuncture: All You Need to Know

Acupuncture: All You Need to Know

Acupuncture is an old Chinese practice dating back a thousand years, yet it is still widely used today. It is used to “cure” a variety of ailments. And it has been adopted by modern medicine for the many acupuncture benefits.

Let us take a deeper look at this traditional treatment – from the acupuncture benefits, to use and the risks, if there are any.

Why Do People Get Acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese medicine regards acupuncture as a way to balance the flow of energy in your body. Energy or the “life force” itself is believed to flow through pathways in the body, and inserting needles in these strategic points will re-balance that flow.

It is hard to look at acupuncture objectively with that explanation, so Western practitioners instead say that acupuncture stimulates nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. This can promote healing, re-energize a specific body part, or boost the body’s natural painkillers.

Shoulder Pain: Possible Causes and Natural Remedies

Those who can benefit from acupuncture

The acupuncture benefits of numbing pain work well for patients of various illnesses, often those suffering from terminal cases or lingering pain. Here are some examples of these cases and conditions where people can really benefit from acupuncture:

Cancer patients

Most recently, acupuncture has been very useful for cancer patients. Not only does it bring painkilling benefits, but it is also touted to relieve nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatments. That’s why acupuncture is gaining popularity for those seeking a better quality of life or palliative care.

Those who suffer from severe menstrual cramps

Women who suffer from debilitating menstrual cramps on a regular basis, or are suffering from labor pains may also opt to go with acupuncture rather than taking painkillers, which is not really good for your body and your baby, too. Pregnant women who are about to go into labor can get acupuncture as a pain-killing or numbing alternative as they patiently wait to give birth, which can take a few hours.

Those with chronic pain

For those suffering from simple yet unbearable pain like headaches, toothache, and migraines, go with acupuncture instead of taking painkillers. This is quite helpful especially if you are taking more medicines for other conditions.

acupuncture benefits

How is Acupuncture Performed?

A typical acupuncture treatment session lasts 20 minutes to one hour.

  1. First, the certified practitioner assesses your health by doing a physical examination and checking your medical history.
  2. You will be asked to lie down or sit, depending on what part of the body is getting treatment. The needles are very fine and just a couple of centimeters long. It is not as intimidating as your hypodermic syringe. The acupuncture practitioner identifies the points where to place the needles. A typical session focuses only on one part of the body.
  3. Once the issues have been identified, they will insert needles around specific areas of your body that need needle stimulation.
  4. Inserting the needles takes a bit of skill, as they need to be inserted just under the skin or in some cases, deep enough to reach the muscle. Once inserted, the needles are left in that position for a few minutes or however long it is required to stimulate that part of the body.
  5. Like other medical treatments, this could be done over the course of several sessions, depending on your condition.

Inserting the actual needles needs precision and accuracy, so even when you have acupuncture needles and other educational resources, you still need training, experience, and certification in order to practice. Acupuncture points are quite specific, so just jamming the needles randomly will not really do anything to help improve your health.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

Because of the thinness of the acupuncture needle, you will not really feel the pain like when getting pricked by an actual needle. Instead, you will feel a tingling or dull ache upon insertion. Any significant pain that you feel should be communicated to your acupuncture practitioner immediately.

Are There Any Risks to Acupuncture?

Acupuncture can easily draw attention as a treatment for recurring pain or other issues. But many people are not pursuing it because they are apprehensive about the possible risks it poses. After all, this treatment requires you to get poked around by multiple needles. It sounds painful as it is, and there is a chance that something could go wrong during the treatment.

Do note that these risks are quite low if you go to competent, certified acupuncture practitioners. Not only do they have the knowledge and experience to identify the right acupuncture points throughout your body, but you’re also guaranteed that they use sterile needles for the procedure.

Modern acupuncture now uses single-use, disposable needles instead of aged needles.

As acupuncture uses needles, these can still break your skin and can cause bleeding and bruising. No matter how thin they are. This is something that you should consider if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are regularly taking blood thinners.

There is also an acupuncture technique where mild electrical pulses are coursed through the needles to further stimulate specific parts of your body. This means that if you have a pacemaker installed, the treatment can interfere with its performance.

Lastly, if you are pregnant and you are not due anytime soon, the acupuncture treatment could stimulate labor, so you may end up having a premature delivery. Even if you are going with all-natural childbirth, you should still consider the timing of getting acupuncture treatment before your due date.

Key Takeaways

Contrary to ancient Chinese beliefs, acupuncture is not a wide-ranging cure-all. But it does have its merits, and that is as a viable alternative to painkilling medication. Acupuncture benefits for your health are numerous. It can provide quality-of-life care to cancer patients and others who are terminally ill. It can also be used to treat common headaches, toothache, and migraines. Try acupuncture to see how it can also benefit you.

Learn more about Herbals & Alternatives here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Acupuncture: In Depth, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture-in-depth, Accessed July 16, 2020

Acupuncture, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acupuncture/, Accessed July 16, 2020

How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion, and Emotional Well-being, https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/research/cim/clinicalcare/Pages/About-Acupuncture.aspx, Accessed July 16, 2020

Acupuncture, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/acupuncture/about/pac-20392763, Accessed July 16, 2020

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Jul 16, 2020
Expertly reviewed by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD