The effectiveness of acupuncture: the opinion of doctors

Acupuncture (acupuncture) refers to traditional Chinese medicine. But does this method really help? And what do scientists say about this?

Don’t self-medicate! In our articles we collect the latest scientific data and opinions of authoritative experts in the field of health. But remember: only a doctor can diagnose and prescribe treatment.

There is no consensus on the effectiveness of acupuncture. Some experts are convinced that this alternative medicine really helps, others — that the method works only due to the placebo effect. However, there are studies showing the benefits of acupuncture in some cases.

Types of acupuncture

There are three types of acupuncture:

  • Dry needle method — needles are inserted under the skin so that they reach damaged or poorly functioning tissues, for example, muscles;
  • Western acupuncture — when using this method, needles act on trigger points and so-called energy channels. Such stimulation should cause local changes in tissues, as well as provoke a reaction of the spinal cord and brain. The result of the procedure should be the release of painkillers and /or muscle relaxation;
  • Traditional acupuncture — needles are placed at the point of passage of energy lines and points. Their location is determined using traditional approaches of Chinese medicine.

Acupuncture Table of Traditional Chinese Medicine of the 1800s Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Advantages of acupuncture

In fact, treatment through exposure to energy channels does not sound very scientific. Therefore, it is impossible to use acupuncture as the main treatment for serious diseases. However, there are studies that show that in some cases acupuncture can relieve the patient’s condition — for example, with pain in the limbs and joints.

Thus, the results of randomized control studies confirm the effectiveness of using acupuncture for shoulder pain, knee osteoarthritis and “tennis elbow” (lateral epicondylitis) — a disease in which degenerative-inflammatory damage to the tendons of the elbow joint occurs due to overloading of the forearm and hand muscles.

Also, acupuncture can briefly relieve neck pain and contribute to reducing pain in the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. In some cases, acupuncture helped relieve pain during painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), as well as during childbirth.

In some cases, acupuncture helps to get rid of pain – for example, with physical injuries or degenerative processes

Disadvantages of acupuncture

The main disadvantage of acupuncture is only partially proven effectiveness, so it cannot be used as a full-fledged treatment method, especially with the development of serious diseases.

Also, the disadvantages include pain, bleeding and bruising at the injection sites of needles — these side effects are observed quite often. But more serious negative consequences — lung collapse, for example — are rare and mainly due to incorrect technique of the procedure.

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