How effective is acupuncture for different kinds of ailments?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Acupuncture can be effective for many ailments. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to figure out how effective because it is hard to test acupuncture treatments against placebo treatments in a randomized clinical study. In studies done to see if acupuncture treats for various ailments, patients are given either real acupuncture or something called a sham procedure that gives a patient the sense that they have had acupuncture without actually performing the treatment. There have been studies done this way that have shown that acupuncture can be effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, lower back pain, infertility and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also can be effective for chemotherapy-induced nausea in cancer patients after surgery. There have been smaller studies that have suggested that acupuncture may improve urinary incontinence and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and help prevent migraines and tension headaches.

Acupuncture appears to be effective in postoperative nausea, morning sickness, recurrent headache, post-operative pain after dental treatment, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Research may help us find more about the efficacy of this method with other ailments.

Acupuncture is rarely associated with serious complications, but hepatitis and other infections have been linked to inadequately sterilized needles. Only disposable needles should be used.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.