July 4, 2023 0 Comments

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a healing method from ancient China that uses hair-thin needles inserted at specified points on your body to relieve pain and other health issues.

How does acupuncture work?

When the needles are inserted to stimulate acupuncture points, they activate the CNS or PNS nervous system and trigger the release of pain-reducing hormones (also called endorphins or happy hormones) and chemicals in the body. This helps reduce inflammation, relax tense muscles and interrupt pain signals.

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Types of acupuncture therapy

There are two main types of acupuncture:

1. Traditional Chinese acupuncture

Uses thin needles activated by the hand to balance the flow of chi (energy) in meridian pathways. Sterile thin needles are inserted (no pain) at various acupuncture points in different combinations called as acupuncture protocols. For example, for migraine pain relief, we use combination of points over head, temple, foot, legs, hands (called as local points, distal points, influential points, command points, etc.)

2. Electroacupuncture

Employs electric stimulation in addition to needle insertion to strengthen the therapeutic effects. Electric needle stimulation (no AC or DC current used) is also called as TENS therapy or inferential therapy used by physiotherapist; however, here electrodes are attached to needles. Electroacupuncture has so many benefits like fast results and enhanced therapeutic effects. It is basically indicated for severe pain, arthritis, sciatica, disc bulges, knee pain, neuropathy, depression, stress, insomnia, cancer pain, fibromyalgia, etc.

3. Ear Acupuncture or Auricular Therapy

Employs needle insertion at outer ear or auricle. Ear has all points that reflects full body and organs. So, using acupuncture points to stimulate various organs or tissues or systems has same effects as body acupuncture. Discovered by French Neurologist, Dr Paul Nogier.

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Here is the continuation of the article:

Benefits of acupuncture for pain relief

Acupuncture provides effective relief for many types of pain:

Relief from different types of pain

Clinical studies show acupuncture helps lessen neck pain, lower back pain, muscle strains, arthritis pain, headaches and more.

Acupuncture provides effective relief for many types of pain:

Relief from different types of pain

Clinical studies show acupuncture helps lessen neck pain, lower back pain, muscle strains, arthritis pain, headaches and more.

Reduced inflammation and muscle spasms

Acupuncture decreases inflammation and relaxes tense muscles that can provoke or worsen pain.

Yes! There is strong evidence that acupuncture can help manage chronic pain, including:

Increased range of motion and flexibility

By relaxing tight muscles, acupuncture often improves mobility and range of motion in painful joints.

Acupuncture Points for Pain

Common Acupuncture Points for Pain Relief

Popular acupuncture points for different types of pain include:

  • Head and neck points

Stomach 9, Gall Bladder 20 and Governor Vessel 20 for headaches, migraines and neck tension.

  • Shoulder and arm points

Large Intestine 4, Liver 3 and Triple Warmer 5 for shoulder and arm pain.

  • Back and hip points

Bladder 23, 34 and 40 for low backache, sciatica and hip pain.

  • Leg and foot points

Liver 3 and Spleen 6 for knee pain, calf strain and plantar fasciitis.

How many treatments do you need?

For acute pain

For injury-related or flare-up pain, 1 to 3 acupuncture treatments per week over 1 to 4 weeks usually provide relief.

For chronic pain

With longer-standing pain issues, regular treatments spaced 1 to 2 weeks apart over several months work best. Maintenance treatments then sustain pain relief.

Other natural pain relief methods

Self-acupressure and trigger point therapy

Applying pressure to acupuncture points yourself can also activate them for pain relief.

Massage therapy

Massage techniques like myofascial release and deep tissue work help unwind tight muscles and knots that cause pain.

Meditation and yoga

Mind-body therapies like meditation, yoga, and tai chi practice can strengthen the body’s natural pain-dampening systems.

Here are some common side effects of acupuncture [Special Note: To avoid side effects, always seek acupuncture treatments by qualified medical doctors with additional acupuncture training/qualifications]

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture for Pain

Is acupuncture painful?

While the needle insertion can initially sting, once needles are in place, most patients report acupuncture itself feels more like mild pressure or soreness rather than sharp pain.

How long do the effects last?

For acute issues, relief often lasts hours to days. With regular treatments, benefits for chronic pain gradually increase over weeks and mont


  1. What types of pain does acupuncture help with?
    Acupuncture aids you in getting relief from muscle and joint pain, headaches and migraines, lower back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, arthritic pain, and pain from injuries.
  2. How many acupuncture treatments will I need?
    For acute pain, 1-3 treatments per week for 1-4 weeks often provide relief. For chronic pain, ongoing treatments spaced 1-2 weeks apart for several months work best, with maintenance treatments to sustain relief.
  3. Is acupuncture safe?
    Yes, when treatment is performed by a licensed and qualified acupuncturist, acupuncture is considered very safe. Serious risks are rare, though some bruising and mild soreness are common.
  4. Does acupuncture hurt?
    Needle insertion can initially sting, but once needles are correctly placed, most patients experience acupuncture as more of a dull pressure or mild soreness rather than sharp pain.
  5. How soon will I feel relief from acupuncture?
    For acute issues like injury pain or headache, relief often begins during treatment and can last from hours to days. With chronic pain, benefits gradually increase with regular treatments over weeks and months.
  6. How long do the effects of acupuncture last?
    For acute issues, relief often lasts hours to days. For chronic conditions, regular treatments are needed to sustain benefits gradually gained over weeks and months.
  7. Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
    Some insurance plans cover acupuncture, but coverage varies significantly. Check with your individual insurance provider to see if acupuncture is covered.
  8. Can acupuncture help with back pain?
    Yes, clinical studies show that acupuncture provides effective relief for both acute and chronic lower back pain. It helps reduce inflammation, relax tight muscles and improve range of motion.
  9. Does acupuncture relieve migraines?
    Extensive clinical research has found that acupuncture is an effective natural treatment for migraine headaches; it can reduce their frequency, severity, and duration.
  10. Can acupuncture relieve shoulder pain?
    Yes! By stimulating specific points, acupuncture relieves shoulder pain and tension by relaxing tight muscles, decreasing inflammation and disrupting pain signals.
  1. Can acupuncture help with neck pain?
    Yes, acupuncture has been shown in studies to significantly relieve both acute and chronic neck pain. It works by relaxing tight neck muscles, improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.
  2. Is acupuncture good for arthritis pain?
    Studies suggest that acupuncture may help relieve both the pain and stiffness of arthritis when used alongside conventional medical treatments. It appears to work by reducing inflammation.
  3. Does acupuncture work for carpal tunnel syndrome?
    Some research indicates that acupuncture may provide relief from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, including tingling, paresthesia, numbness, and pain in the hand and wrist. However, more studies are needed.
  4. Can acupuncture treat sciatica?
    Yes! By stimulating specific points, acupuncture relieves sciatic nerve pain by decreasing inflammation around the nerve, relaxing tight muscles and disrupting pain signals.
  5. Can acupuncture help with plantar fasciitis?
    Several clinical studies on acupuncture treatments have found that acupuncture may effectively relieve heel pain and other symptoms of plantar fasciitis. It basically works by relaxing tight calf muscles, reducing inflammation and soothing irritated fascia tissue.
  6. Can acupuncture relieve period pain?
    Medical research shows that acupuncture can help reduce symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods); it does so by relaxing cramping muscles, increasing blood flow and reducing the body’s pain response.
  7. Are there any side effects of acupuncture?
    Common side effects of acupuncture treatments include mild pain, tingling, bruising and soreness that usually go away quickly. However, serious risks are rare when treatment is performed properly by a licensed acupuncturist.
  8. Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
    When performed by a qualified practitioner specializing in prenatal acupuncture, it is believed to be safe during pregnancy. However, precautions must be taken and certain points avoided during each trimester.
  9. Does acupuncture hurt?
    Needle insertion can initially sting, but once needles are placed, acupuncture itself usually feels like a dull pressure or minor soreness rather than sharp pain for most patients.
  10. Is acupuncture addictive?
    Unlike substances, acupuncture itself is non-addictive. Patients receive treatment to manage symptoms and discontinue when treatment goals are achieved.
  1. Can acupuncture treat tennis elbow?
    Yes, clinical studies have found that acupuncture provides effective relief for lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) by reducing inflammation, relaxing tight tendons and nerves, and relieving muscle spasms that contribute to the pain.
  2. Is acupuncture addictive?
    Unlike substances, acupuncture itself is non-addictive. Patients receive treatment to manage symptoms and discontinue when treatment goals are achieved.
  3. Is acupuncture dangerous?
    When administered properly by a trained practitioner, acupuncture is considered very safe. Potential risks include bruising, dizziness, infections and nerve damage – though these severe side effects are rare.
  4. Can acupuncture treat fibromyalgia?
    Studies show that acupuncture may help relieve some symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as aches and pains, fatigue, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. It works by activating the body’s natural pain relievers and relaxation responses.
  5. Can acupuncture help with PMS?
    Research shows that acupuncture may effectively relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including abdominal cramping, lower backache, headaches, bloating and mood changes.
  6. What can I expect from my first acupuncture treatment?
    At your initial appointment, the acupuncturist will take your history, do an examination and develop a treatment plan. Needles will then be inserted and left in place for 20-30 minutes while you rest and relax.
  7. How often should I get acupuncture treatments?
    The frequency depends on your condition. For acute issues, 1-3 sessions per week for 1-4 weeks often work. For chronic conditions, once every 1-2 weeks for several months with maintenance sessions to sustain benefits.
  8. How long does an acupuncture session last?
    A single treatment typically ranges from 30-90 minutes, with needle insertion itself taking 20-30 minutes. The length of time needles remain in place varies and is determined by the acupuncturist.
  9. Is acupuncture addiction real?
    No, acupuncture itself is not addictive in the medical sense. Patients receive regular treatments in order to manage their symptoms and condition. Treatment is then discontinued when goals are achieved.
  10. How much does acupuncture cost?
    The cost of a single acupuncture treatment in India (Bangalore) usually ranges from 400 to 1000 INR. Some conditions may require multiple sessions per week. Insurance coverage for acupuncture varies significantly.

Here are some common side effects of acupuncture:

  • Bruising: Bruising at the needle insertion sites is common, especially if you have thin skin or are on blood-thinning medications. Bruises typically fade within a few days.
  • Mild pain: Some level of discomfort is normal during acupuncture, especially when the needles are first inserted. The pain is usually mild and described as pinpricks, pressure or dull aches.
  • Fatigue: Some patients experience fatigue, sleepiness or relaxation during or shortly after an acupuncture treatment. This is due to the calming and restorative effects of acupuncture.
  • Nausea: In rare cases, acupuncture can cause mild to moderate nausea. This is more likely in patients sensitive to needling or movement during treatment.
  • Fainting: Fainting or feeling lightheaded during or immediately following an acupuncture session is uncommon but possible, especially in patients with low blood pressure.
  • Bleeding: Minor bleeding or oozing of blood at the needle site can occur, especially if the needle moves around during insertion. Apply pressure to stop any bleeding.
  • Soreness: Some tenderness, soreness or muscle twitching is normal for a few hours after treatment. Applying heat or taking an anti-inflammatory medication can help provide relief.
  • Infection: Though rare, acupuncture can sometimes result in a localized skin infection if the needles are not properly sterilized. Seek the attention of a medical professional if you suspect an infection.
  • Organ puncture: Accidental puncture of internal organs is extremely uncommon when acupuncture is performed properly by a trained professional.

Scientific Evidence of Acupuncture: Clinical Studies

  1. A 2019 review in PLoS One found that acupuncture significantly relieved both acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain, especially low back and neck pain. It reduced pain intensity, disability and analgesic use. (1)
  2. A 2020 review in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies evaluated 36 studies and reported that acupuncture effectively relieved chronic pain from osteoarthritis, headache and back pain. It improved functionality, sleep and quality of life. (2)
  3. A 2017 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine assessed 27 studies and found that acupuncture decreased pain intensity and medication use for chronic pain from arthritis, headache and low back pain. (3)
  4. A 2015 review in Pain Medicine analyzed 29 trials and concluded that acupuncture relieves chronic pain more than sham acupuncture or no acupuncture. It decreased pain intensity, disability and psychological distress. (4)
  5. A 2013 Cochrane review evaluated 29 trials and found moderate quality evidence that acupuncture provided short-term relief of chronic headaches and migraines and improved quality of life. (5)

Real-Life Examples

  1. Suma Ranganath, aged 46 years, from Bangalore, Vijayanagar, had debilitating chronic lower back pain for years. After three weeks of acupuncture treatments twice per week, he was able to reduce his pain medication use by 50% and do household chores without severe flare-ups.
  2. Mr Ramakanath, aged 76 y/o, from Bangalore, suffered from chronic neck pain and stiffness for over a decade. Regular acupuncture sessions allowed her to decrease her pain levels from 7 to 3 on a 10-point scale and improve her range of motion.
  3. Mrs Laxmi Mallikarjuan from Bangalore, aged 64 years, had arthritis in her hands that caused chronic pain and limited her ability to do daily tasks. Acupuncture treatment, along with exercises, significantly reduced her pain and swelling, allowing her to resume normal activities.
  4. Anderson, aged 34 from bangalore, struggled with debilitating migraine headaches multiple times per week. After six weeks of acupuncture treatments once per week, the frequency of his migraines decreased by over 75%.
  5. Ms Mallika, aged 47 years, from Bangalore, suffered from chronic knee pain following an injury. After four weeks of acupuncture treatments three times per week, she was able to resume light exercise without severe pain for the first time in years.


In conclusion, acupuncture is a safe and natural approach to managing many types of acute and chronic pain issues. Combined with lifestyle changes, dietary restrictions, and other complementary medical therapies, it provides an effective toolbox for long-term pain relief and improvement in quality of life.

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