Conditions that respond to Acupuncture

If you want to know more about how much acupuncture can help, here as follow are some facts about conditions which respond well to acupuncture treatment.

Pain and Acupuncture

Pain is an unpleasant feeling triggered by various influences. It may be sharp or dull, off-and-on or steady, localized (such as back pain) or all over (such as muscle aches from the flu). Sometime, pain alerts us to injuries and illnesses that need attention. It can last for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic pain may be due to an ongoing condition (such as arthritis) or to abnormal activity in pain-sensing regions of the brain or the cause may not be known.

In the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 1.4 percent of respondents (representing 3.1 million Americans) said they had used acupuncture in the past year. A special analysis of acupuncture data from an earlier NHIS found that pain or musculoskeletal complaints accounted for 7 of the top 10 conditions for which people use acupuncture. Back pain was the most common, followed by joint pain, neck pain, severe headache/migraine, and recurring pain.

Back pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people see a health care provider. It has been estimated that up to 80% of the world's population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, with the lower back as the most common location of pain.

While there is no definitive way to resolve lower back pain, the use of acupuncture to treat this condition has increased dramatically in the past few decades, based to a large extent on placebo-controlled studies that have validated it as a reliable method of pain relief. The results of a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain provide further proof that acupuncture is a safe and effective procedure for low-back pain, and that it can maintain positive outcomes for periods of six months or longer without producing the negative side-effects that often accompany more traditional pain remedies. In May 2009, the NHS proposed to given the right to demand free acupuncture for those who suffer from back pain.

Headaches and Migraine

The pain that headache and migraine sufferers endure can impact every aspect of their lives. Acupuncture can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause. In a study published in the November 1999 issue of Cephalalgia, scientists evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of migraines and recurrent headaches by systematically reviewing 22 randomized controlled trials. A total of 1,042 patients were examined. It was found that headache and migraine sufferers experienced significantly more relief from acupuncture than patients who were administered 'sham' acupuncture.

Acupuncture treatment for headaches always includes a through diagnosis of your condition to develop a treatment plan tailored for your health condition and headache symptoms. Depending on the location of your headache, distal acupuncture points on your hands and feet can be needled to affect the flow of Qi though your head to relieve your headache pain. Additional acupuncture points will be included in the treatment to balance your body and supplement your deficiency condition to prevent future headaches. Microsystems of acupuncture, such as auricular ear acupuncture and scalp acupuncture, may be included in the treatment to enhance acupuncture's effects in treating your headache.

Osteoarthritis and Knee Pain

About 8.5 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis. It is a condition which causes pain that can restrict movement and limit flexibility. Osteoarthritis occurs when the body can no longer keep up the pace of repair to injuries or damage to the joints. The damage mounts up and eventually causes pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints that make it difficult to move. Osteoarthritis usually affects the knees, hips, hands and base of the big toes.

A 26 week study on acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis funded by NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, both which are divisions of the National Institutes of Health, found that an extended course of acupuncture to be beneficial in both relieving pain and improving function in those with knee osteoarthritis. In this study, 570 people were divided into three groups.One received acupuncture, one sham acupuncture, and one received education. Patients still received standard treatment from their physicians, including medications. Overall, the group receiving treatment with acupuncture resulted in about a 40% reduction in pain and 40% improvement in functioning, significantly higher than the two other groups. This study is the longest and largest study of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis to date.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck pain and shoulder pain can have a variety of causes, with continuous mechanical strain, constant stress and trauma being the most frequently cited. Keeping head in an awkward position can cause your neck muscles to fatigue, circulation in the tissues to diminish, and the joints to "lock" in place. This is very common in office workers, The stress is also a common factor in neck/shoulder stiffness and pain. Being under constant stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to become hypersensitive. This can cause constant muscle spasm, a corresponding lack of circulation and nutrition to the tissues, leading to neck and shoulder pain and stiffness.

Acupuncture treatment has been used for pain relief for a long time. According to Chinese medicine, conditions such as stress block the free-flow of qi, leading to illness and pain. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points along these meridians, they say, blockages dissolve and healing ensues. Western scientists suspect that acupuncture triggers the release of natural pain-relieving opioids in the central nervous system.

Menstrual Pain

For most women who have menstrual cramps, the problem can be classified as primary dysmenorrhea, meaning they aren't caused by a physical abnormality of the reproductive organs. This type of dysmenorrhea usually takes the form of sharp, spasmodic pains in your lower abdomen at the beginning of your period, or a day or two earlier, and it lasts two to three days. Some women have a hard time dealing with menstrual cramps that most often leave them stressed during their period. Most of the time women try to ignore the pain or simply take painkillers or birth control pills to alleviate the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are standard treatment for menstrual pain, but they carry the risk of side-effects.

A recent German study published in the February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology confirms that acupuncture can relieve a woman of her menstrual pain. “Patients with chronic dysmenorrhea [menstrual pain] treated with acupuncture as an adjunct to routine care showed significant improvements in pain intensity and quality of life compared to patients who received routine care alone.” As said by Dr. Claudia Witt of Charite University Medical Centre in Berlin.


A stroke is an event marked by either loss of blood-flow to or bleeding into an area of the brain. The affected area of the brain is damaged, resulting in some degree of loss of body functions controlled by nerves associated with the damaged area. Both the United Nations World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health endorse acupuncture as a treatment for stroke-related disabilities. The benefits of acupuncture are holistic. Acupuncture doesn't only address the physical symptoms of Stroke but can also treat mental issues such as depression and mood changes as well as improving the energetic balance and general well-being of the patient.

In China acupuncture has been used as a routine treatment for stroke from early intervention to aid long-term recovery and prevent recurrence, alongside Western Medicine treatment. Stroke recovery is one of my most important skills in acupuncture; I have intensively studied this topic for both of my master's degree and doctorate. Throughout my 15 years of practice, by skillfully using scalp and electroacupuncture, I have been consistently treating patients suffering from stroke, especially in the recovery of limb motor limit, sense of numbness and tingling, swallowing difficulties (disphagia) and speech disorders (aphasia).

Bell's Palsy, Facial Paralysis

Bell's palsy or idiopathic facial palsy is the most common disorder affecting the facial nerves and results in weakness or paralysis on one side of the face. It is thought that the inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve may be caused by combined vascular, infectious and immunological reaction. In view of Chinese medicine, Bell's palsy is called 'Wind Attack'. It is believed that Bell's palsy is caused when Wind and Cold invade the meridians, muscles and tendons of the face.The normal flow of Qi and Blood is disrupted in the face, resulting in malnourishment of the facial muscles and tendons, and then muscle weakness or paralysis, numbness and tingling.

The goal of treatment is to expel the Wind-Cold from the meridians, improve the circulation of Qi and Blood to nourish the muscles and restore nerve and muscle function. As muscle contraction improves, the treatment also aims to enhance the body's defenses, strengthening the individual's immune system. Initially treatment focuses on using acupuncture points on the face and back of the head to expel the Wind and Cold. Additional treatment options include electroacupuncture and cupping. Electroacupuncture involves stimulating several needles to enhance the effect of acupuncture; this is typically used in more chronic or severe cases. Cupping is frequently used as an adjunct to acupuncture.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve (the 5th cranial nerve), one of the largest nerves in the head. Trigeminal Neuralgia is characterized by a sudden, severe, electric shock-like or stabbing pain typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. The attacks of pain, which generally last several seconds and may be repeated one after the other, may be triggered by talking, brushing teeth, touching the face, chewing or swallowing.

Acupuncture for trigeminal neuralgia is most effective when applied promptly after the appearance of the syndrome. Trigeminal neuralgia associated with concussion or head injury is especially responsive if treatment is applied soon after the injury. It is postulated that the insertion of acupuncture needles causes enhanced blood flow to the affected area. With multiple acupuncture treatments, the cumulative effect may actually lead to nerve repair in the case of the demyelinated trigeminal sensory fibres. A recent study in the journal Medical Acupuncture demonstrated a significant beneficial effect when acupuncture treatments were administered to patients who were suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Among the most devastating types of traumatic injuries is injury to the spinal cord. One of the most difficult issues to deal with is that there is no 'cure' at the present time. The major problem with spinal cord injury is the devastating sequelae including motor, sensory disfunction and bowel/bladder function. According to 'A Review of Allopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine Literature', published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture treatment was shown to significantly improve long-term recovery following spinal cord injuries. Clinical studies on the effect of acupuncture on spinal cord injuries have shown results of increased sensation, reduction of muscle spasms, and improved bowel and bladder function. Other studies have shown that the sooner after the trauma that the treatments are begun, the more dramatic the improvements in the control of spasms and increased function and sensation. The studies have also shown that the best results come from continued treatment over a long period of time. In looking at various complications that may arise after a spinal cord injury, the researchers stated, “There is evidence that use of electro-acupuncture in acute spinal cord injured subjects may significantly improve their long-term neurologic recovery including motor, sensory and bowel/bladder function. Acupuncture may even improve neurourologic function in spinal cord injured individuals with chronic neurogenic bladder, and may also be a useful adjunct in the management of their chronic neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain conditions.”

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is the current name for a disorder characterized by debilitating fatigue and a variety of associated physical, constitutional and neuropsychological complaints. The clinical manifestation of CFS includes fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle aches, joint aches, fever, difficulty sleeping, psychiatric problems (such as depression), allergies, abdominal cramps, weight loss or gain, rash, rapid pulse, chest pain, and night sweats. Physical examination and routine laboratory tests are required to rule out other possible causes of the patient's symptoms. Prominent findings argue strongly in favour of other processes. However, no laboratory test, no matter how esoteric or exotic, can diagnose this condition or measure its severity. Although current conventional medicine can relieve many symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, no successful treatment for the syndrome as a whole.

In the view of Chinese medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome is mostly classified into several syndromes, and the prognosis of acupuncture is dependent on the Chinese diagnosis,such as the Spleen qi deficiency, liver qi stagnation, heart blood and yin deficiency, and heat toxicity , should have good results from the above-mentioned treatments. Most patients treated for the above diagnoses can get rid of chronic fatigue syndrome in three months. Kidney deficiency and phlegm obstruction have a slower response to treatment, and may take longer than three months. It is believed that acupuncture can treat the chronic fatigue syndrome by restoring Immune function, enhancing vital energy.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a blanket term for a variety of diseases causing discomfort in the gastro-intestinal tract. It is also called spastic colon, and is a functional bowel disorder, characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and alteration of bowel habits in the absence of any organic cause. In some cases, the symptoms are relieved by bowel movements. Diarrhea or constipation may predominate, or they may alternate. IBS may begin after an infection or a stressful life event. Other functional or pain disorders and certain psychological conditions are more common in those with IBS.

One study has directly investigated the use of acupuncture versus relaxation therapy in IBS patients. This research found that patients' quality-of-life and gastrointestinal symptom scores were equally improved in both groups, with a statistically significant reduction in abdominal pain. However, when the patients were followed for a 4-week period post-trial period, only in the acupuncture group did pain reduction persist. Furthermore, a significant reduction in stress perception was also observed in the acupuncture group, but not in the relaxation group. The conclusion drawn was that acupuncture is an effective form of treatment for IBS, particularly the pain and stress symptoms, and that its benefits exceed those of standard relaxation treatment.


Some of us commonly live under a constant state of stress, continually triggering the stress response and depleting valuable reserves of energy. Those who surpass individual limits of stress suffer the consequences. Stress manifests itself in many ways. Common symptoms are headache, backache, skin disorders, gastric problems and sleeping disorders. Psychological symptoms may include depression, anxiety, poor concentration, poor memory and loss of self confidence. Prolonged stress may cause major diseases in the body.

Acupuncture has a number of beneficial psycho/physiological effects for stress relief. It can bring a relaxation response with decreased heart rate, lowered BP, stress reduction and increased energy and tissue regeneration. It has been shown to produce a calming or tranquilizing action that is of particular interest to people in states of stress. Acupuncture can relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, which may be serious handicaps for people trying to cope with difficult domestic, social and work problems. It can also give a feeling of well-being and self-confidence.


Many women have bothersome symptoms related to menopause. These can include hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and vaginal dryness. Other symptoms that might relate to menopause include mood changes, difficulty with memory, incontinence, and fatigue. In the recent past, menopausal hormone therapy was the main treatment for these symptoms. However, studies found that there may be increased risk of heart disease or other health problems when women took hormone treatment for a long time, so many women are turning to 'complementary and alternative' treatment options.

Acupuncture relieves the most common symptoms of menopause primarily by regulating the drastic changes in hormone levels women experience during menopause. This leads to a significant decline in hot flushes and an increase in energy, appetite and sense of well-being without the harsh side-effects of hormone replacement therapy.

Cancer Chemotherapy Fatigue

Crippling and long-lasting fatigue is one the most common side-effects of chemotherapy. In the latest study, 47 patients suffering from moderate to severe fatigue were enrolled in a randomised placebo-controlled trial at Manchester's Christie Hospital. Acupuncture reduces this side-effects by over a third according to the study and radically improves a patient's quality of life. “People felt better and had more energy after the acupuncture,” says Alexander Molassiotis, Professor of Cancer and Supportive Care at the University of Manchester. “Patients had the energy to walk to the shops and to socialise, so their quality of life improved significantly.” A detailed acupuncture study has been launched by Cancer charity in 2007.