Relief from chronic pain is one of the most common reasons why patients seek acupuncture treatment. It’s also the most frequently studied and scientifically-supported benefit of acupuncture.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture relieves pain by balancing the flow of energy, or “chi,” throughout the body. Western science suggests that the effects may come from stimulating the various organs and systems, including the nervous system and immune system.
However acupuncture works, the results are clear. A major analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012 examined the results of 29 separate research studies, including data from almost 18,000 patients. According to this “study of studies,” overall acupuncture treatment was found to reduce pain by 50%, as reported on the Harvard Health Blog.
The lead author of the 2012 report, Dr. Andrew J. Vickers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the New York Times that “We think there’s firm evidence supporting acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain.”
According to the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, some of the types of chronic pain that can be effectively treated with acupuncture include neck pain, lower back pain, facial and jaw pain, and knee pain.
The American Academy of Family Physicians reported on a more recent study published in the Journal of Pain in 2018. This study found that acupuncture was an effective treatment for four types of chronic pain: osteoarthritis, chronic headache, shoulder pain, and nonspecific back and neck pain. Furthermore, the study found that the effects of acupuncture lasted for at least a year after treatment.
Clearly, acupuncture has significant potential benefits for people suffering from chronic pain, especially considering that for most patients, acupuncture has fewer negative side effects or risks than prescription pain medications.