Acupuncture is worth a try for chronic pain?

Chronic pain in the muscles and joints affect the quality of life. Standard treatments like ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and appropriate exercises can often ease the pain. But when they don’t, acupuncture is an option worth considering.

Over the years there has been substantial debate about whether acupuncture really works for chronic pain. Research from an international team of experts adds to the evidence that it does provide real relief from common forms of pain. The team pooled the results of 29 studies involving nearly 18,000 participants. Some had acupuncture, some had “sham” acupuncture, and some didn’t have acupuncture at all. Overall, acupuncture relieved pain by about 50%. The results were published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The above study is for general reading purpose only.

How does it work?

Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles into the skin at specific acupuncture points around the body. It can be a pain free procedure when done by an experienced practitioner. 

Inserting the needles is thought to correct imbalances in the flow of energy in the body, called qi (pronounced “chee”). In Western scientific terms acupuncture is thought to ease pain by affecting neurotransmitters, hormone levels, or the immune system.

For new acute pain, an acupuncturist should not always be your first stop. I recommend that individuals have clear diagnoses of what is causing their pain to rule out serious medical conditions that should be treated right away—and then seek out acupuncture if appropriate.