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Acupuncture

Reviewed by: Sally S. Elias, MD
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What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the practice of putting tiny needles into specific spots of the body for medical therapy. It has been around for thousands of years. According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by unblocking and balancing the flow of energy.

Scientific evidence shows that acupuncture works for some kinds of medical conditions by stimulating the body to release natural pain killers and other chemicals.

How Is Acupuncture Done?

When someone goes for acupuncture, the practitioner will ask a lot of detailed health questions. They may also check the pulse, tongue, or other parts of the body. This helps the practitioner learn about the person’s problem and make a plan for treatment.

Then, they put needles into the skin at specific spots. Sometimes the practitioner twirls the needles or runs a small amount of electricity through them. A usual treatment will include about 5–20 needles. The needles are left in for about 15 minutes and then taken out. It usually doesn’t hurt to have the needles put in or taken out.

Most acupuncture practitioners also make recommendations for healthy eating, exercise, and lowering stress. They may recommend other complementary treatments such as herbal or vitamin supplements. It’s important that they also support any conventional medical treatments that a person is getting.

What Does Acupuncture Treat?

Studies have shown that acupuncture can help with:

Are There Any Risks to Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is very safe when done by a certified, trained, experienced practitioner (or acupuncturist). In the United States, all practitioners must be certified. This ensures they’re properly trained and use safe practices (such as using sterilized, individually packaged needles).

Bleeding, infection, and other problems can happen from acupuncture, but are rare.

What Else Should I Know?

If you’re thinking of acupuncture for your child, talk to your regular health care provider first. They can make sure that no medical conditions would make acupuncture unsafe. They also might be able to recommend an acupuncturist.

When you choose an acupuncturist, be sure they know that you want them to work with your regular doctor to care for your child.

You can get more information or search for a practitioner near you online at:

Reviewed by: Sally S. Elias, MD
Date reviewed: July 2022