Acupuncture is a healing modality from traditional Chinese medicine that originated in China several thousand years ago. It is based on the idea that human beings have a vital energy source, called “qi”, that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines (called meridians) within the body. Each individual meridian is associated with a different organ and structural system. Any imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian, whether it is an excess or insufficiency, is thought to be how disease begins.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is a Chinese healing art. It involves inserting thin, sterile, single-use needles into specific parts of the body, called acupoints. The acupoints are situated along the 12 energy meridians, and the needles serve to balance the flow through that meridian. Thus, acupuncture stimulates the body’s innate healing systems. Herbal therapies are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and may be combined with acupuncture treatment. Chinese herbs may be taken as teas, tonics, pills, powdered extracts, and tinctures. By combining acupuncture with Western medicine’s therapies and techniques, acupuncture has become a widely-accepted and highly sought after treatment for many conditions and disorders, including neck and back pain. There are various theories about how acupuncture works. These include:

  • Acupuncture works by inducing the release of pain-relieving endorphins
  • Acupuncture can influence the release of neurotransmitters, compounds that transmit nerve signals to the brain
  • Acupuncture can affect the autonomic nervous system
  • Acupuncture can stimulate circulation
  • Acupuncture can alter the electrical currents of the body

What Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture has been studied scientifically and found to be useful for numerous conditions. Some issues that acupuncture may help include: 

  • Many types of physical and dental pain
  • Post-surgical recovery
  • PMS 
  • Morning sickness
  • Headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Sinusitis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addictions
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Tennis elbow
  • TMJ syndrome
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis

One of the leading reasons Americans seek acupuncture treatment is for the relief of chronic pain. Acupuncture may help with painful conditions such as migraines, osteoarthritis, lower back disorders, neck pain, shoulder pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Clinical research shows that acupuncture helps to relieve both long-lasting (chronic) pain and acute (sudden) pain. Studies have also found that using acupuncture can lower the need for conventional pain-relieving drugs. Thus, the risk of side effects for patients who must take these drugs may be reduced.


What Adjunctive Therapies Do Acupuncturists Use?

An acupuncturist may use one or a combination of healing techniques during a treatment. These may include:

  • Chinese herbal medicine – Chinese herbs in many different forms are often given as supplements to acupuncture treatment
  • Moxibustion – Moxibustion is the heating of acupuncture needles with dried herb sticks (called moxa) to activate and warm the acupuncture points 
  • Cupping – Cupping is the application of glass cups to create suction on the skin. This action serves to relieve stagnation of the qi and blood
  • Electro-stimulation – A source of electrical stimulation provides a weak electrical current to two to four acupuncture needles that have been inserted in acupoints. This can be used to enhance pain relief and reduce muscular pain
  • Laser acupuncture – Laser acupuncture is a non-needle stimulation of acupuncture points