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  • Ashley Baleno

Not to be rude but... Does acupuncture actually work?

Updated: Jan 1

I sure hope it does, or else I spent 4.5 years and way too much money on a useless degree!


In all seriousness, this is a valid question. I mean, the answer is yes, but it’s definitely a valid question. You don’t have to take my word for it, I’ve come to this blog post armed with research. I want to keep this short which means I’ll barely be skimming the surface but trust me when I say I spent way too much time compiling studies. If you want more information, I probably have it. Just email me.


Okay, now for the fun stuff! Acupuncture has been found effective for 43 conditions by the World Health Organization (WHO).(1) In 2003 they published a strong statement supporting acupuncture for specific conditions based on research at that time, though it has since been retired and will hopefully be updated and republished soon. The National Institute of Health (NIH) considers acupuncture effective for 10 pain conditions and 9 non-pain conditions.(2) And those are just the conditions that have been studied thoroughly enough to make a scientific determination about! There are dozens, if not hundreds more conditions that acupuncture is effective for but quality research on acupuncture is limited. In fact, the United States only started regulating acupuncture in 1991(3), and three states don’t even regulate it today! Like, you could literally move to those states, call yourself an acupuncturist, and start charging people if you wanted. (But please don’t.) So I’d say we’ve made a lot of progress in the last 30 years!


Anyway, scientific research is limited due to how new acupuncture is in Western countries, as well as a few other complicated factors that I’d love to tell you about in a different post, however the research is rapidly growing. We saw an enormous jump in peer reviewed publications (research) around 2019-2020 and it has been climbing every year. Some of the stuff coming out recently has been mindblowing! Laser acupuncture (a specific kind of laser pointed at acupuncture points) has been found to help lessen the spasticity (uncontrolled movements) in children with cerebral palsy.(4) Auricular acupuncture (acupuncture applied to points on the ear) can help people quit smoking.(5) Regular acupuncture or acupuncture with gentle electrical stimulation effectively treats dysmenorrhea (painful periods)(6,7), insomnia(8), high blood pressure(9), and neuropathy(10). I could keep going forever, but you get the idea. It isn’t effective for everything under the sun, but it works for a whole lot of conditions!


At this point you’re probably wondering how getting poked with needles can help so many different conditions. I could probably write an entire book on that so I’m still trying to figure out how to fit that information into a beginner friendly blog post. The short version is, there’s a lot of different proposed pathomechanisms depending on which points are being used. The long version will have to come later when I figure out how to condense it into a 2-3 minute read.


That’s all for now! Citations are below. Everything I used is open source so you can geek out to your heart's content. If you have more questions or want more information, send me an email at ashley@ncintegrativewellness.com.







Sources


  1. WHO Official Position. (n.d.). Evidence Based Acupuncture. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/who-official-position-2/

  2. “Acupuncture: What You Need to Know.” NCCIH, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture-what-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20acupuncture.

  3. Acupuncture Legal Status. (2010, February 11). News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/health/Acupuncture-Legal-Status.aspx#:~:text=In%201981%2C%20non%2Dallopathic%20physicians

  4. ‌Putri DE, Srilestari A, Abdurrohim K, Mangunatmadja I, Wahyuni LK. The Effect of Laser Acupuncture on Spasticity in Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2020 Oct;13(5):152-156. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2020.09.001. Epub 2020 Sep 25. PMID: 32980558.

  5. Yavagal PC, L N. Efficacy of Laser Auricular Acupuncture for Smoking Cessation: A randomised controlled trial. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2021 May;21(2):e275-e281. doi: 10.18295/squmj.2021.21.02.017. Epub 2021 Jun 21. PMID: 34221476; PMCID: PMC8219332.


  1. Shetty GB, Shetty B, Mooventhan A. Efficacy of Acupuncture in the Management of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2018 Aug;11(4):153-158. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Apr 12. PMID: 29654840.


  1. Woo HL, Ji HR, Pak YK, Lee H, Heo SJ, Lee JM, Park KS. The efficacy and safety of acupuncture in women with primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Jun;97(23):e11007. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000011007. PMID: 29879061; PMCID: PMC5999465.

  2. Yin X, Gou M, Xu J, Dong B, Yin P, Masquelin F, Wu J, Lao L, Xu S. Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment on primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Sleep Med. 2017 Sep;37:193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2017.02.012. Epub 2017 Mar 8. PMID: 28899535.

  3. Chen H, Shen FE, Tan XD, Jiang WB, Gu YH. Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for Essential Hypertension: A Meta-Analysis. Med Sci Monit. 2018 May 8;24:2946-2969. doi: 10.12659/MSM.909995. PMID: 29735972; PMCID: PMC5963739.

  4. Dimitrova A, Murchison C, Oken B. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2017 Mar;23(3):164-179. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0155. Epub 2017 Jan 23. PMID: 28112552; PMCID: PMC5359694.


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