What is Acupuncture: how it works, uses, benefits and risks

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles through the skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for general wellness, including stress management.

Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique to balance the flow of energy or life force, known as chi or qi (chee), which is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that their energy flow will rebalance.

In contrast, many Western practitioners view acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation increases your body’s natural pain relievers.

Its use

Acupuncture is primarily used to relieve discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, including:

  • Postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • Dental pain
  • Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines
  • the pain of childbirth
  • low back pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • menstrual cramps
  • Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis.


Acupuncture may be beneficial because:

  • Done correctly, it is safe.
  • There are very few side effects.
  • It can be effectively combined with other treatments.
  • Control some types of pain.
  • It can help patients for whom pain relievers are not suitable.


The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner who uses sterilized needles. Common side effects include pain and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use disposable needles are now the standard of practice, so the risk of infection is minimal. Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture. You may be at risk of complications if:

  • You have a bleeding disorder. Your chances of bleeding or bruising from needles are increased if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners.
  • He wears a pacemaker. Acupuncture involving the application of mild electrical pulses to needles can interfere with the function of a pacemaker.
  • You are pregnant  Some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labor, which could result in premature labor.

Acupuncture treatment

During an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist inserts very fine needles into specific points on your body. Insertion of the needles usually causes little discomfort.

Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often combining aspects of Eastern and Western medicine approaches. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your doctor may ask about your symptoms, behaviors, and lifestyle. You can also take a close look at:

  • The parts of your body that hurt
  • The shape, coating, and color of your tongue.
  • the color of your face
  • The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse on your wrist.

This initial evaluation and treatment may take up to 60 minutes. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity. In general, it is common to receive six to eight treatments.

Choosing an acupuncturist

If you’re considering acupuncture, follow the same steps you would take to choose a doctor:

  • Ask people you trust for recommendations.
  • Check the doctor’s training and credentials.
  • Interview with the practitioner. Ask what the treatment involves, how likely it is to help your condition, and how much it will cost.

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