What can Acupuncture Treat?

What can acupuncture treat?  This is one of the most common question I get as an acupuncture.

Sounds like a simple question, but in fact it is quite hard to answer.   In many ways, it is like asking, “What does Western Medicine treat?” or ” What do medications treat?”

Acupuncture can treat both physical and mental problems. Acupuncture, as a part of Chinese medicine, has been used as a comprehensive medical system and over one billion people still use Traditional East Asian Medicine as their primary means of health care.  That means that people use it to treat back pain, colds, PMS, infertility, asthma, strokes, migraine headaches, painful urination, acne, stomach aches, depression, anxiety, and all other types of diseases.

Generally speaking, people seek acupuncture for chronic conditions.  Here are some various resources to help you explore “what acupuncture treats?”

1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

NCCAM has excellent information about acupuncture treatment for a few conditions, like osteoarthritis of the knee, low back pain, and PTSD.

2.  The World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO published huge document on acupuncture and traditional medicine in 2003. Unfortunately it is no longer on the web, (here is a link to it’s summary on Wikipedia).  The document listed  over 140 conditions which acupuncture is used for and has documented efficacy.  Here are a few of the conditions listed:

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Depression
  • Painful Periods
  • Ulcer
  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Correction of Malposition of fetus
  • Morning sickness
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Stroke

3.Annals of Family Medicine

A great article published in the Annals of Family Medicine in 2005, examined the most common reasons for going to an acupuncturist in Washington State and Massachusetts.  This article also discusses training and background of acupuncturists and the major categories of diseases, along with specific  conditions.

Some of the most common conditions included:

  • back pain and stiffness
  • anxiety and depression
  • neck pain and stiffness
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • shoulder pain and stiffness
  • general wellness
  • allergies to food
  • knee pain
  • abdominal pain, cramps, and distention
  • infectious disease
  • problems of pregnancy or fertility

4. Success Stories from my Clinic

From my personal experience, I think that article was pretty comprehensive for common conditions.   In my clinic, other common conditions are chronic prostatitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, migraine headaches, acne, dermatitis, and irregular or painful menstruation.   If you are interested in getting acupuncture, find someone you can trust and ask them if they have experience with your concern.

5.How does it work in China?

The way that the Chinese still use their own traditional medicine should also help us understand what can Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treat.

Dr. Chan, my acupuncture Professor, and I
Dr. Chan, my acupuncture Professor, and me

In China, Chinese medicine is completely integrated with the healthcare system.  Where I studied, at the Hunan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we had an entire hospital dedicated to TCM.  They also used Western medicine when needed, such as antibiotics, but the main focus was acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and acupressure.

The hospital has many departments, I rotated in acupuncture, internal medicine, Tui na (medical massage) and dermatology.  They also had an OBGYN, pediatrics, and an entire inpatient department.  People came to see us with all types of pain including headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, facial paralysis, bell’s palsy, menstrual cramps, infertility, hepatitis, gall bladder disease, rehabilitation from stroke, chronic renal failure, sexual dysfunction, proastatitis, acne, and hives just to name a few.

Dr. Chan, my teacher in the photo above, is a master Chinese medicine Doctor and Acupuncturist.  He is famous for his treatment of Prostatitis, Parkinson’s disease, pain, eye conditions, stroke, and cerebral palsy.

6. Research Shows Acupuncture Works

A similar question to what is it used for is “Is there research?”  Yes, Absolutely! There is too much to discuss hear, so I selected some of my favorite.

One of the best and most comprehensive studies focuses on acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee.  There is also evidence that acupuncture works for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an area I believe acupuncture is underused.

Acupuncture has also been shown to help the effectiveness of IVF and improves the health of the babies at birth.  Acupuncture is also great at treating headaches of all kinds.

Of course, there are millions of other chronic conditions acupuncture can treat.  If you are interested in learning more about if acupuncture can address your health concern, please give us a call at 212-319-5757 to schedule an appointment.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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