Category Archives: Acupuncture

Acupuncture for back pain?

I have chronic low back pain. Would acupuncture treatments help?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Many people who have chronic low back pain have found acupuncture to be helpful. But the scientific evidence to support these claims has been mixed, partly because it can be difficult to devise a good form of sham acupuncture for comparison.

Acupuncture for back pain involves inserting very thin needles to various depths into strategic points on your body. Scientific studies have indicated that sham acupuncture works just as well as real acupuncture for back pain. A key point, though, is that in several studies, both sham acupuncture and real acupuncture relieved low back pain better than having no treatment at all.

This could mean that sham acupuncture could be having an effect, or it could mean that the effects of acupuncture may be due in part to a placebo effect.

The research on acupuncture is growing, but interpreting it is still a challenge. For now, most studies seem to indicate that, for most people, acupuncture results in some beneficial effect with a low risk of side effects when provided by a well-trained practitioner.

So if other treatments haven’t helped your low back pain, it may be worth trying acupuncture. But if your back pain doesn’t begin to improve within 6 to 8 weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you.

ORIGINAL POST – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/expert-answers/acupuncture-for-back-pain/faq-20058329

Can Acupuncture Help You Get Pregnant?

For some women, acupuncture is not only a way to relieve stress when you’re trying to conceive, it has also shown some promise for increasing fertility.

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • Can acupuncture boost your fertility and help you get pregnant? 
  • What are the benefits of trying acupuncture for fertility? 
  • Are there any risks of doing acupuncture when you’re trying to conceive? 
  • Acupuncture pressure points for fertility and what to expect at your appointment 
  • How much does acupuncture cost? Does insurance cover it? 
  • Success rates of doing acupuncture when TTC 
  • Success stories of trying acupuncture for fertility 
  • Should you try acupuncture during pregnancy too? 

While getting poked and prodded might not seem like the most appealing way to boost your fertility, some research has shown that acupuncture may help women conceive. It doesn’t hurt that it also may relieve stress and help you relax, which also may increase your chances of getting pregnant. 

Acupuncture works by stimulating nerve endings deep below the surface of the skin. By manipulating the needles in conjunction with gentle electrical stimulation (a practice known as electropuncture), your nerves are activated, helping your body release substances called endorphins. This can have positive effects on fertility, including relieving any stress and depression that may be weighing you down.

Can acupuncture boost your fertility and help you get pregnant?

The verdict is still out on whether acupuncture does increase fertility, but some research is promising. A small study found that acupuncture performed before and after an in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo transfer were more likely than women who just made lifestyle changes to get pregnant. A review of 23 studies showed that acupuncture improved the chances of conceiving in women undergoing IVF, although this finding remains controversial.

What are the benefits of trying acupuncture for fertility?

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce depression, which can be a problem for women struggling with infertility. It can also decrease stress and anxiety that can contribute to fertility problems. What’s more, high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage in women once they become pregnant.

Are there any risks of doing acupuncture when you’re trying to conceive?

The practice is usually safe, but it’s important to seek out a certified and licensed professional who’s familiar with infertility care. Ask your reproductive endocrinologist if he or she can refer you to anyone.

As an extra precaution, ask to look at the needles that will be used in your treatment to make sure they’re individually packaged, single-use needles. Your practitioner should also use an alcohol swab on the skin each time before inserting a needle.

Many acupuncturists also recommend herbal therapies. It’s very important to discuss these therapies with your reproductive endocrinologist to make sure that they’re safe to take with the fertility treatments you’ve been prescribed.

Acupuncture pressure points for fertility and what to expect at your appointment

Your initial visit should include an in-depth consultation. Questions may not immediately seem to be related to infertility but are important for the practitioner to determine the ideal therapy for you.

After the consultation, the acupuncturist will use a variety of points in an effort to enhance fertility or blood flow to certain organs. Pressure points on the head promote relaxation, while points around the stomach help open up the supply of fresh blood to the ovaries. Other points around the lower legs are used to promote blood flow to the reproductive organs, which starts at the feet.

Needles are left in for around 20-25 minutes while you relax in a room. Follow-up visits are shorter and usually don’t include a consultation.

Success rates of doing acupuncture when TTC

Success rates aren’t set in stone because some studies have shown that acupuncture helps increase fertility, especially in women who are having trouble conceiving, while other studies haven’t shown any increase. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that acupuncture only caused a negligible (around 1 percent) increase in pregnancy outcomes, but other research has shown that acupuncture in conjunction with other fertility treatments increases success rates by 50 percent.

Again, many of these are small pilot studies; larger, controlled studies still need to be done. However, there are few if any studies showing that acupuncture has a negative impact on fertility or treatment outcomes.    

Success stories of trying acupuncture for fertility

While the research is still somewhat unclear, there are many success stories about how acupuncture helped with fertility and conceiving. Suzie of Charleston, South Carolina, did acupuncture weekly in conjunction with her IVF treatments. She’s now a mom to 2-year-old Byron and pregnant with a daughter due in July.

Jacqui of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, had a similar positive experience. She tried for six months to get pregnant, and after the first acupuncture treatment was able to conceive. The treatments, according to Jacqui, were also calming and soothing, which was really helpful during a particularly stressful time.

Reagen of Helena, Montana, a mom of four, also says acupuncture helped her seal the deal.

Should you try acupuncture during pregnancy too? 

Yes, acupuncture, like massage, can be helpful when you’re pregnant. Acupuncture seems to have the ability to alleviate some of the undesirable symptoms of pregnancy like morning sickness, fatigue and depression. Some research has shown that in pregnant women who did depression-focused acupuncture, the treatment reduced symptoms by 63 percent.It’s not completely clear whether acupuncture is effective at increasing fertility, but it has been shown to help with the depression and anxiety that can make trying to get pregnant more difficult. It’s also been shown to help women who are already undergoing IVF have better outcomes. And while it’s often not covered by insurance, the cost of acupuncture compared to fertility treatments like IVF is minor. If there’s a possibility that acupuncture will boost your chances of getting pregnant or at least lift some of the stress you’re dealing with, it may be worth a try.

ORIGINAL POST – https://www.whattoexpect.com/getting-pregnant/prepping-for-pregnancy/acupuncture-for-fertility/

Acupuncture for Allergies

Overview

Acupuncture was developed by traditional Chinese medical practitioners to treat a wide range of health problems. Once only used in Eastern cultures, it has gradually gained acceptance by medical professionals in the West. Acupuncture is now commonly used to treat everything from pain, stress, and nausea. Lesser-known uses, such as the treatment of allergies, are also gaining popularity.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient practice that started in what is now China. It’s based on the belief that life energy, called qi, pronounced “chee,” flows throughout the body along pathways called meridians. By inserting thin needles at specific points, called “acupuncture points,” skilled practitioners seek to restore the flow of energy to eliminate pain and other ailments.

Western medicine doesn’t accept the traditional explanation of acupuncture’s mechanism of action. No evidence that meridians exist has ever been documented by modern science, but despite ongoing questions regarding how it works, science has shown that at least in some instances, it does work. Pain relief is one example. Controlled clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can relieve pain, sometimes better than drugs, in conditions such as chronic lower back pain, migraines, neck pain, and post-operative pain.

Acupuncture and Allergies and Eczema

What about using acupuncture for the treatment of allergies and eczema? Preliminary research indicates that acupuncture may help allergy and eczema symptoms.

Researchers at the University Medical Center in Berlin conducted a large, multi-center studyTrusted Source of the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. The study divided 422 people into three groups for two months: one group received acupuncture treatment, the second received “fake” acupuncture, with needles placed in random, meaningless spots on their bodies, and the third group only took antihistamines. At the end of the study, the group that received acupuncture therapy reported greater relief from symptoms than the other two groups.

However, the group receiving the fake acupuncture treatment also reported relief of their symptoms, though not as much as the group receiving acupuncture. Furthermore, four months later, as a follow-up, the difference between the effectiveness of the real and fake acupuncture treatment groups was less pronounced. This suggests a placebo effect may have taken place with the people receiving acupuncture, in anticipation of its beneficial effects.

In another studyTrusted Source, researchers were unable to support or disprove the use of acupuncture as treatment for hay fever.

Other studiesTrusted Source have looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is an itchy rash that can be caused by irritants like soap or lotions. They found that acupuncture significantly reduced itchiness in some patients. They noted that preventative acupuncture did not work as well as concurrent acupuncture.

Outlook

In a reviewTrusted Source of published trials, researchers concluded that there is some evidence to support the claim that acupuncture is beneficial and cost-effective as an additional treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, at this time, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that acupuncture is effective as a stand-alone treatment. This conclusion echoes what other scientists who have previously reviewed the existing evidence have determined. So while the study results are promising, present evidence is mixed, at best. More studies are also needed to evaluate acupuncture as a treatment of eczema.

If you’re interested in acupuncture therapy, start by talking to your doctor. They may be able to recommend a center or practitioner.

ORIGINAL POST – https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/acupuncture#outlook

Acupuncture Can Lower High Blood Pressure

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MDFROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES 

June 11, 2001 — Some people swear by acupuncture. They’ll tell you how a few painless sessions as a human pincushion cured vicious migraines or relentless back pain. Others remain skeptical, dismissing the ancient practice as mumbo jumbo. Now, scientists investigating its actions in heart disease have found not only that acupuncture works, but why and how. One day, they tell WebMD, that blood pressure medication might be replaced by a few pins and needles.

John C. Longhurst, MD, PhD, first became interested in acupuncture on a research trip to China. “I met an investigator who’d been doing work in acupuncture for years. I saw that he was a very good scientist,” he says. “I, like most scientists, thought acupuncture was a lot of hocus pocus. But when I saw his work, I knew there was something to it.”

Once home, Longhurst, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine, began the first of four investigations into the underlying mechanisms of acupuncture.

In it, his team tested cats with heart disease. “We showed that acupuncture helped the animals by reducing ischemia — the lack of oxygen to the heart” caused when blood vessels are blocked, he says. That was hard evidence that the therapy worked. Next, they tried to determine how it was happening.

In acupuncture, invisible pathways connecting one body part to another are called meridians. “They are located over major [nerve] pathways that are accessed when you put a needle in,” says Longhurst. Stimulating the pathway “sends impulses to the brain, activating different areas.” Some affect pain, “which explains why acupuncture can control pain,” he says, “and others regulate the cardiovascular system.”

One such area, just above the spinal cord in the brain stem, regulates release of adrenaline — a chemical that makes hearts pound and blood pressure soar. But when they induced an “adrenaline rush” in animals, acupuncture “prevented this from occurring. It blocked the effect,” says Longhurst. Hearts beat normally and blood pressure remained low.

In the third study, the team found they could reverse acupuncture’s heart-healthy effects by injecting cats with a synthetic version of naturally occurring opioids — brain chemicals that produce a “runner’s high,” kicking in when we’re in severe pain. “So, we’re narrowing it down, getting more specific and detailed in terms of what’s going on,” says Longhurst.


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A fourth study is underway in human subjects, he tells WebMD, but it’s still too early to draw any conclusions.

The ultimate goal of this work is to help the huge number of patients with ischemia, high blood pressure, and irregular heart beat, or heart arrhythmias, he tells WebMD. “The current meds have a lot of side effects. If we can reduce [their medication needed] with acupuncture, that would be great.”

Experts agree it’s not a far-fetched idea. “There has to be something more to acupuncture than the placebo effect or hypnosis,” says Joseph Alpert, MD, Flinn Professor of Medicine and chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “My colleagues have seen people have open heart surgery with only acupuncture, no anesthesia. This is not a bunch of malarkey,” he tells WebMD, “it’s real.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, MD, FACC, chief of cardiology at Duke University, agrees. “It’s not an accident that people have been doing acupuncture for so long,” he tells WebMD. The findings are “pretty clear that it’s not a placebo effect. Acupuncture seems to be having a relatively specific effect on the control of blood pressure.”WebMD Health News

ORIGINAL POST: https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20010611/acupuncture-can-lower-high-blood-pressure

Acupuncture is worth a try for chronic pain

Chronic pain in the muscles and joints can make life miserable. 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 with a good track record that’s 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 study isn’t the last word on the issue, but it is one of the best quality studies to date and has made an impression.

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

What does research say about acupuncture?

Acupuncture is used to treat several types of pain. Here’s what the research says.

Low back pain

A 2015 review of studies found that acupuncture could provide short-term relief from low back pain. This is true if acupuncture is used alone or with other treatments, such as medications or physical therapy.

Knee pain

Pain caused by osteoarthritis in the knee is a leading cause of disability among adults. A 2010 review found that acupuncture is an effective treatment for knee pain and physical symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Neck pain

Acupuncture can significantly reduce neck pain, according to one 2015 study. When acupuncture is used with other techniques to ease neck strain and reduce muscle tension, the symptom relief was significant when compared with traditional care.

Migraines and headaches

2012 review of migraine studiesTrusted Source found that acupuncture was at least as effective at easing migraine symptoms as other treatments, including medication. It also has some benefits over those classic treatments, including longer lasting effects, lower medication use, and fewer serious complications or side effects.

Additionally, research suggests that regular acupuncture treatments may help people with a history of migraines prevent future episodes.

Labor pains

Researchers are mixed on the use of acupuncture to reduce labor pains during childbirth. Some studies show a statistically significant reduction in pain experience. Others point out that acupuncture’s effectiveness during labor is difficult to measure.

Still, acupuncture remains an area of interest for many mothers looking for medication-free options.

Smoking cessation

Acupuncture is sometimes used for the treatment of conditions other than physical pain. Research has yet to establish acupuncture as an effective smoking cessation therapy. When compared with nicotine replacement therapy, acupuncture was less effective.

However, though more research is needed, acupuncture shouldn’t be firmly ruled out as a potential therapy for quitting smoking.

Depression

One study looked at the use of acupuncture and antidepressant medication to ease signs of depression. It suggests that medication and acupuncture together may be effective. It’s also well tolerated and presents few complications.

But a review of studies could not declare acupuncture as a reliable treatment for depression. The author concluded the findings were enough to justify additional research.

Overall, the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as effective in treating hundreds of diseases and symptoms.

ORIGINAL POST: https://www.healthline.com/health/acupuncture-for-anxiety#takeaway

Is Acupuncture Safe and Beneficial to Pregnant Women? Yes it is!

By Chaunie Brusie, RN  Medically reviewed by Brian Levine, MD, MS, FACOG on August 01, 2020

In recent years, acupuncture has grown in popularity as an alternative therapy during pregnancy to treat a range of discomforts. If you’re pregnant and interested in trying acupuncture, you may wonder if it really works—and have concerns about potential dangers. Below we explore the safety and efficacy of using this ancient practice while expecting.

Overview

Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice of traditional Chinese medicine that seeks to balance the flow of energy (known as chi or qi) in the body. This healing art has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries and there is an established tradition (and substantial anecdotal evidence) of positive results.

While there is a lack of rigorous, comprehensive scientific studies to back up some acupuncture health claims, preliminary research does show many promising results.

Acupuncture is used primarily as alternative medicine and is not routinely a part of traditional care. However, the healing art is often included in the growing trend of an integrative healthcare approach. And many conventional doctors are seeing some benefits in incorporating acupuncture into their patients’ healthcare.

Some studies have also shown promising results for its effectiveness in pain relief. It’s also reported to help discomfort from arthritis, migraines, and headaches, and even improve skin appearance by improving circulation and tightening facial muscles.

How It Works

Most often, acupuncture treatments involve stimulating key points in the body (acupuncture points or acupoints) with thin, sterile needles. Applying acupuncture needles is thought to enhance the body’s natural ability to self-heal, thereby alleviating pain and other discomforts, boosting immunity, and treating some conditions.

Do the Needles Hurt?

Most people report that they barely feel any pokes from the needles.

Researchers have found that many acupoints correlate to deep-seated nerves, which trigger the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals when activated by the needles. This process of nerve stimulation helps to explain how acupuncture might block pain signals to help to alleviate a number of common discomforts.

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Increased interest in acupuncture during pregnancy, in particular, is due, in part, to some doctors’ claims and limited research that the ancient practice can help improve fertility in couples looking to conceive.1?

Other doctors and healthcare providers have been recommending acupuncture as a way to provide pain relief during and after childbirth, and as a strategy for decreasing opioid use.

Many women are also turning to acupuncture to help alleviate common pregnancy ailments such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches caused by hormone changes.

Acupuncture during pregnancy has not been thoroughly studied, so it is challenging to say with 100% certainty whether acupuncture during pregnancy is safe or effective.

Additionally, not all the claims about its benefits are supported by science. Knowing what acupuncture works best for can help align your expectations and avoid disappointment if you do choose to try it.

Potential Benefits

A 2013 review by Medical Acupuncture revealed that anywhere from 4% to 13% of European women use acupuncture during their pregnancies.2? They did not have exact numbers for American women but noted that acupuncture use, in general, was rising in the United States. The researchers theorized that pregnant women would be part of that growing population.

Over the past few decades, alternative medicine techniques, including acupuncture and its use during pregnancy, have grown in popularity in the West.

In theory, acupuncture during pregnancy can be used to treat a variety of different pregnancy-related ailments or be used to assist with labor or conception. Potential uses include to:

  • Alleviate nausea and vomiting
  • Alleviate pain after a surgical birth
  • Alleviate pain during labor
  • Alleviate panic, stress, and depression during pregnancy
  • Assist with general pain and discomfort from pregnancy
  • Assist with labor induction
  • Assist women in conceiving, both naturally and with assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF
  • Correct a breech position during pregnancy
  • Reduce breast tenderness
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce headaches
  • Reduce heartburn
  • Reduce pelvic discomfort
  • Treat constipation and hemorrhoids
  • Treat sciatica pain

Some pregnant women are drawn to acupuncture’s promise of gentle, relaxing, pain-free treatment for some of pregnancy’s most nagging discomforts.

Pain

Acupuncture for pain relief during labor and after surgery (c-section) is one of the most commonly cited uses for the therapy in pregnancy, especially because healthcare providers are looking for alternatives to opioids. New mothers are at higher risk for addiction after being prescribed opioid painkillers for pregnancy-related pain.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) 2018 report on labor and birth management mentions acupuncture as one of several documented strategies that may help manage pain during labor. But, the report also notes that there haven’t been enough studies done to definitively conclude that acupuncture should be recommended.3?How Pregnant Women Can Safely Use Pain Relievers

Nausea and Vomiting

The 2013 ACOG review found that acupuncture was effective for relieving nausea associated with analgesia from c-sections,3? so it has may have many uses for relieving symptoms, even in a hospital setting.

Acupuncture may also be helpful for women who suffer from severe nausea or vomiting during their pregnancies (technically called hyperemesis gravidarum), especially if they want to avoid medication as a remedy.

Labor Induction and Breech Positions

In at least two cases in the review, acupuncture was used successfully as a way to induce labor without any medication.3? This was in mothers who were full-term and had been recommended for labor initiation.

Acupuncture has also been said to be helpful in correcting a baby who is in a breech position, to turn the head down to be ready for delivery.

Pelvic Pain

One of the most largely-respected and widely-cited reviews on acupuncture during pregnancy concluded that the practice is beneficial in relieving pelvic pain and low back pain associated with pregnancy.4?Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy

Depression

Acupuncture has been associated with relieving symptoms of depression during pregnancy. This may be especially important to note since, unlike antidepressants or other medication commonly used to try to treat depression, acupuncture has no known potential risks to the unborn fetus.

Conception

Although acupuncture has been associated with helping women conceive, especially when used with IVF, a 2018 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that there is no proof that acupuncture increases the incidence of live births in women who are using IVF to get pregnant.5?

However, the study noted that many acupuncture recipients did report feeling more relaxed and less stressed with acupuncture, which is helpful when undergoing IVF, so the practice shouldn’t be completely ruled out for use when trying to conceive.

Any practice that is safe and could help a mother relax more when trying to conceive can be a helpful adjunct to staying healthy and potentially increasing the odds of conception.

Potential Risks

Acupuncture has a very low risk of negative effects. The most commonly reported adverse reactions include soreness at the needle site, local bruising, weakness, fatigue, sweating, and nausea.

According to a 2013 review, there is only one documented case of negative effects of acupuncture during pregnancy and it was related to injury as a result of asthma complications. The baby was unaffected and delivered healthy and full-term.

Pressure Points

Where acupuncture is administered may be especially important to consider when pregnant. The same review study mentioned that there is some concern from the ACOG about some acupuncture points causing premature labor, especially if used before a woman is full-term in her pregnancy.

The 2018 JAMA study on IVF and acupuncture also found that there was a higher rate of miscarriage (almost double, in fact) in the group that received acupuncture as compared to the group of women who did not receive acupuncture.5?

The study concluded that, in those cases, the acupuncture treatments may have been administered incorrectly, which could account for the higher miscarriage rates. They also noted that there is an especially high link between the acupuncture points LI4 and SP6 and miscarriage.

However, there haven’t been any documented cases of acupuncture definitively causing premature labor or miscarriage, so it is just a general recommendation to avoid the practice during your first trimester.

Non-Certified Locations

There are also some obvious risks of acupuncture, during pregnancy and otherwise, if you choose a practitioner who is not certified or one who does not follow proper safety protocols when using needles. A risk of blood-borne disease transmission, such as HIV, is always a risk when working with needles in the human body.

It’s also worth mentioning that not all acupuncture practices are built exactly the same. There are some imitation-type acupuncture practices that use incorrect needles or different-sized needles that are not true to traditional acupuncture practice, which could be associated with more adverse reactions and risks.

A Word From Verywell

While there is some promising research to support acupuncture during pregnancy, there isn’t enough high-quality evidence for acupuncture to be routinely recommended for pregnant women.

However, the risks and costs of acupuncture during pregnancy are very low (and sometimes covered by insurance). If you are interested in trying the practice to manage your pregnancy symptoms or incorporating acupuncture into your pain relief plan for birth, be sure to speak to your doctor about your options.

If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, be sure to find a practitioner who specializes in pregnancy acupuncture and check that they are licensed and certified with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

ORIGINAL POST – https://www.verywellfamily.com/acupuncture-during-pregnancy-4583027

Can Acupuncture Help with Anxiety?

Overview

More than 40 million U.S. adults have symptoms of anxiety, which refers to excessive worrying that’s hard to control and often impacts daily life. It’s often treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both.

Acupuncture, an ancient practice that involves inserting needles into pressure points on your body, is becoming a popular alternative treatment for anxiety. There’s some scientific evidence that acupuncture helps with certain symptoms of anxiety. However, researchers are still trying to determine the effect of acupuncture on specific types of anxiety, such as panic attackspost-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Keep reading to learn more about what we do — and don’t yet— know about using acupuncture to treat anxiety.

What are the benefits?

There have been several studies done about the effects of acupuncture on anxiety. These studies have focused mostly on generalized anxiety disorder and suggest that acupuncture is helpful in treating general anxiety.

One promising study from 2015, for example, found that acupuncture improved symptoms in people with anxiety that didn’t respond to other treatments, including psychotherapy and medication. Participants received ten 30-minute sessions of acupuncture over the course of 12 weeks. They experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety, even 10 weeks after treatment.

However, two reviews of existing research, one from 2007 and another from 2013, note that many studies on the subject aren’t very reliable. Some had very few participants — including the one mentioned above — while others were poorly designed. On the other hand, these reviews also point out that acupuncture doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on anxiety.

In a more recent 2016 study on rats, acupuncture was found to be effective for reducing anxiety. The researchers suggested that it impacts how the body triggers the fight-or-flight response.

While we need to better understand how acupuncture affects anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias, research is showing promise for acupuncture as a viable and safe option. If you have anxiety that hasn’t responded to other treatment methods, or you’re simply interested in trying something new, acupuncture shouldn’t worsen your symptoms.

Are there any risks?

While acupuncture won’t make your anxiety worse, it does come with some possible side effects and risks. You can avoid most of these by making sure you see a licensed acupuncturist. In the United States, license requirements vary from state to state, but most require taking an exam from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

The main side effect that people experience with acupuncture is soreness following a session. This usually goes away within a few hours, though it can also leave some bruising. Some people also feel pinpricks of pain during a session.

Licensed acupuncturists are required to use sterile, disposable needles. You could get an infection if your practitioner didn’t use properly sterilized needles. The Mayo Clinic notes that these complications are very uncommon if you see an experienced, certified acupuncturist.

People with some health conditions shouldn’t have acupuncture. You should avoid acupuncture if you:

It’s also important to keep up with any ongoing anxiety treatment, including prescribed medications, while getting acupuncture. You shouldn’t stop any medications without first discussing with your doctor.

What to expect

When you go in for your first appointment, your acupuncturist will start by asking you which symptoms you’re looking to treat. They’ll also ask about any medications you take, your medical history, and any other health concerns you have. This is a good time to ask any lingering questions you have about the process.

During your actual session, they’ll insert long, thin needles into different pressure points on your body. Depending on the pressure points used, this could take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Your acupuncturist might also twist the needles or apply an electrical pulse to them. They’ll leave the needles in for up to 20 minutes before carefully removing them.

You likely won’t feel instant gratification. Most acupuncture treatments are intended to be repeated. Some people report immediate improvements but most notice subtle and gradual changes with repeated visits.

Before you go, make sure you understand the costs involved. Some health insurance plans cover acupuncture for medical or mental health conditions, including anxiety, but others don’t.

ORIGINAL POST: https://www.healthline.com/health/acupuncture-for-anxiety#takeaway