Does Acupuncture Really Work?
By Brette Sember
Does acupuncture really work? Acupuncture, the practice of sticking thin needles into the body to ease pain and cure diseases, has been a standard medical treatment in China for over 2000 years, but it’s only become mainstream in the last few years.
Recent studies show that acupuncture is effective for certain illnesses and chronic conditions. Experts have found that acupuncture releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals) as well as dopamine (a neurotransmitter that affects your mood), according to Dr. Stanley Wainapel, clinical director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
So if you’re suffering from aches and pains, you might want to consider acupuncture. But first, keep these things in mind:
1. Acupuncture doesn’t cure every condition.
Acupuncture has been proven to treat pain and help manage chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, migraines and asthma. It also has a track record for minimizing queasiness (say, from pregnancy or chemo treatments); helping people quit smoking and sleep better; and easing back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.
But it won’t do anything for acute, severe medical problems, says Dr. Wainapel. (So if you think you might have appendicitis, go to the hospital, not your acupuncturist!) It’s also not a good idea to get treatments if your skin is inflamed or irritated, especially in areas where the acupuncturist would insert needles.
2. It’s not a quick cure-all.
Each session with an acupuncturist lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, so if you’re needle-phobic, avoid acupuncture. Depending on your condition, you may need to go a couple of times a week for several months. Usually, acupuncturists continue using other treatments, from medications and physical therapy to herbal supplements and massage.
3. Not all acupuncturists are created equal.
For best results, you want a certified professional. Check the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture’s searchable list of physician (M.D.) acupuncturists at MedicalAcupuncture.com. Licensed acupuncturists (non-M.D.s) can be found through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at NCCAOM.org.
Have you ever tried acupuncture? How did it go?