Research carried out in Germany has shown that acupuncture may help relieve tension headaches and migraines.
The NCCIH note that it has been proven to help in cases of:
- low back pain
- neck pain
- knee pain
- headache and migraine
They list additional disorders that may benefit from acupuncture, but which require further scientific confirmation.
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture has been proven effective.
- high and low blood pressure
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- allergic rhinitis
- facial pain
- morning sickness
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
- dental pain
- reducing the risk of stroke
- inducing labor
Other conditions for which the WHO say that acupuncture may help but more evidence is needed include:
- post-operative convalescence
- substance, tobaccor and alcohol dependence
- spine pain
- stiff neck
- vascular dementia
- whooping cough, or pertussis
- Tourette syndrome
The WHO also suggest that it may help treat a number of infections, including some urinary tract infections and epidemic hemorrhagic fever.
They point out, however, that “only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms, and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended.”
Acupuncture can be beneficial in that:
- Performed correctly, it is safe.
- There are very few side effects.
- It can be effectively combined with other treatments.
- It can control some types of pain.
- It may help patients for whom pain medications are not suitable.
The NCCIH advise people not to use acupuncture instead of seeing a conventional health care provider.
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What to Expect from Acupuncture
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians, through which vital energy runs. This energy is known as “qi” or “chi.”
An acupuncturist will examine the patient and assess their condition, insert one or more thin, sterile needles, and offer advice on self-care or other complementary therapies, such as Chinese herbs.
The patient will be asked to lie down on their back, front, or one side, depending on where the needles are to be inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use, disposable, sterile needles. As each needle is inserted, the patient may feel a very brief stinging or tingling sensation.
After the needle is inserted, there is occasionally a dull ache at the base of the needle that then subsides. Acupuncture is usually relatively painless. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. The needles will stay in place for between 5 and 30 minutes. The number of treatments needed depend on the individual. A person with a chronic condition may need one to two treatments a week over several months. An acute problem normally improves after 8 to 12 sessions.