Does Acupuncture Work? What I Learned (and Loved) About the Age-Old Technique

BY: Sarah Gorr |Nov 29, 2017

About five years ago, I got out of bed feeling pain across my neck, shoulders, and upper back. When I finally told my doctor about this pain, which had become a part of my daily existence, he first suggested physical therapy, which I tried for a couple of months, but with no measureable success. Then I tried daily morning stretching, neck exercises, yoga classes, and finally, chiropractic adjustments and massages. Nothing worked.

I was frustrated, to say the least. Then during a check-in, my chiropracter suggested acupuncture.

I was skeptical (I may have even rolled my eyes). "Does acupuncture work? How could it help me? This is ridiculous!" In fact, I was so certain it was a bad suggestion, I didn't come back to my chiropractor for a year. But by then I was desperate, and I tried it.

Now, I'm officially an acupuncture convert. My complete 180 surprised even me, but it's hard to argue with results. I go in with the stiffest, most immovable back, and a day later, the tension is released. If you're considering acupuncture, here's a few things you should know:

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture works as sterilized needles are inserted at specific points along the body, often referred to as "meridians." Traditional practitioners believe this will redirect the body's "qi", which will resolve any pain or other issues by balancing the body's energy. Alternately, Western practitioners believe that the needles can help stimulate nerves and blood flow, relaxing muscles and easing aches.

Learn more about acupuncture including how much it costs here.

Does acupuncture work?

For me, yes: acupuncture seems to work. My muscles feel looser, and sessions can help me mitigate my daily pain. It's not a cure-all for everyone, though, and it's going to depend a lot on what you're going for. Acupuncture for back pain, headaches, and stress may be more successful than for other problems.

Some patients report that acupuncture provides relief from seasonal allergies and depression, but you'll want to consult with a doctor before turning to acupuncture.

Acupuncture doesn't hurt, but it does pinch.

Anyone insisting you won't feel the needles is lying. But as far as pain? There's truly none. You can feel a small pinch when they stick them in, but that's it. The pinch is also even less noticeable than that of a shot, so if you hate your annual flu shot, don't worry. It's not that bad!

You'll probably need to go more than once.

Expect to get a treatment plan from your acupuncturist. They'll lay out what they recommend, and as you feel better and better, you'll get treatment less often. I go on about a monthly basis currently, which works for me. Because appointments are short (usually less than 30 minutes), they're pretty easy to schedule on the fly, too, so if I feel especially uncomfortable, I can go in as needed.