Acupuncture for Pain Relief

practicing acupuncture

"Acupuncture is an effective and safe form of treatment for many forms of chronic pain." This is the conclusion of a recent, important study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, confirming what practitioners have known for years. The study, which examined raw data from previous high-quality studies and aimed to correct the methodological problems that have plagued many researchers until now, involved nearly 18,000 patients and took over six years to complete.

The results of this comprehensive study suggest that if you suffer from chronic pain, such as migraines, back pain, or arthritis, you are likely to benefit from acupuncture treatment.

Never had acupuncture before? Here are some answers to common questions.

  • Who uses acupuncture?

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, over 3 million U.S. adults have used acupuncture. Growing numbers of people are turning to this integrative therapy, which uses thin needles to manipulate stagnant pools of Qi (commonly thought of as the body's life force or energy), as a treatment for pain, nausea, and other conditions. Acupuncture's popularity is booming, and for good reason, too: the effectiveness of this ancient healing modality is now backed by modern scientific evidence.

  • How can I find a qualified acupuncturist?

It is crucial that you find a qualified provider with experience and appropriate credentials. Not all states require a license to practice acupuncture, and the certification process varies from state to state. The best place to begin your search is by asking your primary healthcare provider for a referral. You can also search online at the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

  • What should I expect during an acupuncture visit?

Be prepared to talk to your acupuncturist about your overall health, as well as any medications you take. He or she will want to get a full understanding of your health and wellbeing before beginning treatment, as would any healthcare provider.

Then, depending on your specific condition, the acupuncturist will insert very thin, flexible needles through the skin on various parts of your body in order to find and manipulate your Qi. The average acupuncture treatment lasts about 20 minutes. Some people feel energized during and after acupuncture, while others report feeling relaxed and peaceful.

  • Do the needles hurt?

Don't worry—most people don't feel any pain during acupuncture. However, you may experience a slight dull ache at the site of the needle or a tingling sensation that spreads in wave-like patterns as the Qi is manipulated.

  • Will my insurance cover acupuncture treatments?

Some private insurance companies do cover acupuncture treatments for specific conditions, so check with your insurance provider before making an appointment.

Keep in mind that many acupuncturists recommend numerous treatments over the course of several weeks to see results. If you are still curious about what happens during an acupuncture appointment, watch the video on this page to see what a typical session is like.