Acupuncture: Some points to ponder | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



Can Acupuncture Really Relieve Chronic Pain? What You Need To Know

Considering acupuncture to ease a chronic ache? If so, you may have a few questions. The following info can help you better understand acupuncture.

Q: What is it?

A: Rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is one of the oldest medical procedures. It strives to maintain the body's internal balance. Although there are different methods, acupuncture usually involves inserting 5 to 20 thin, disposable needles into the skin per session.

Q: How does it work?

A: Acupuncture stimulates specific points on the body. Research suggests that a patient's expectations and beliefs about acupuncture play a role in how effective it will be. Some research even suggests acupuncture may work through a placebo effect. This is because, in some studies, both acupuncture and simulated acupuncture procedures (techniques in which needles touched but did not actually penetrate the skin) proved similarly beneficial to patients.

Q: Is it effective?

A: Acupuncture may help with certain pain problems, such as back and neck pain, arthritis knee pain, and headaches. And it may help relieve nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. Acupuncture is still being studied to see if it helps with other conditions—for instance, menopausal hot flashes.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Yes, when done by a trained, experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Not many complications have been reported. If not performed properly, acupuncture can have risks, including infection, punctured organs and nerve damage.

If you want to try acupuncture for a pain problem, check with your health care provider. Acupuncture may be a good addition to your treatments. But it may not be right for everyone. And feel free to ask any practitioner you visit about credentials. Most states require that acupuncturists be licensed or certified.