What does an acupuncture treatment consist of?
Extremely fine needles are inserted into specific points in the
body. The needles are left in place for a short time - from a few
minutes to half an hour. Because the needles are so fine that,
if properly inserted by a professional, they cannot be felt once
inserted. During the insertion of the needles, there may be a little
pain or no pain at all.
It is important that a licensed acupuncture practitioner perform
acupuncture. The needles used are disposable (the needles are regulated
by the FDA for single use only), and the skin should be swabbed
with disinfectant at the site of insertion. Infection may occur
if there is inadequate sterilization of the needles. When done
properly, acupuncture is virtually free of side effects.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice based on the belief
that life energy (qi - pronounced "chee") flows through the body
along pathways called meridians. Different meridians correspond
to different body parts. If the flow of energy (qi) is interrupted,
health problems can result. Acupuncture is
used to restore the flow of energy (qi) to restore health.
Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how acupuncture
works. One theory is that acupuncture stimulates the production
of endorphins (body's own pain killers) or other chemicals that
affect the nervous system but the actual mechanism in which acupuncture
works to relieve pain in unknown. To those who have experienced
pain relief from acupuncture, they only care that it works, not
why it works - and, a growing number of physicians are referring
patients for acupuncture treatment.
Is there any proof that Acupuncture relieves pain?
Controlled studies have had varied responses (possibly
because they have been too small), but most studies have produced
positive results - the majority of people obtaining pain relief.
Research has shown acupuncture to be especially useful in relieving
nausea from chemotherapy and surgery. Acupuncture may relieve
many types of pain and conditions, including low back pain, sciatica,
osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches,
A recent study, one of the largest and longest ever, showed that
an extended course of acupuncture reduced pain by 40% in those
with knee osteoarthritis. The results were not immediate - after
8 weeks there was an improvement in functioning only, after 14
weeks there was an improvement in pain. This study was funded by
NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases, both divisions of National Institutes of Health.
See Press Release / December/2004.
Like any treatment, acupuncture does not produce the same result
in all people, even when they have the same condition. As it often
seems to provide partial but not total pain relief, acupuncture
is often used as a part of a pain management plan.
If you are experiencing back pain and have not had adequate pain
relief from conventional treatment (or wish to cut back on pain
medication) and are considering acupuncture, ask
your doctor to recommend a licensed acupuncture practitioner.
Back to the Top ^
Back Pain Home Page
to Complementary Treatments