Pain Management

Pain Management

Pain or musculoskeletal complaints account for seven of the top ten conditions for which individuals use acupuncture, according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that acupuncture appears to be a promising alternative for some pain conditions, but cautions that further research is needed before conclusions about acupuncture's effectiveness can be drawn. Here's a look at pain conditions that have been shown to improve with the use of acupuncture:

1) Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

A research review published in 2009 suggests that acupuncture is at least as effective than, medication in protecting against migraines, while another review from the same year shows that acupuncture may be beneficial for people with frequent episodic or chronic tension headaches.

2) Acupuncture for Arthritis

Research indicates that acupuncture may be useful for people with osteoarthritis (especially osteoarthritis of the knee). In a 2007 review and meta-analysis, for instance, researchers concluded that acupuncture administered in an intensive two to four week treatment regimen may offer significant short-term relief of osteoarthritis-related knee pain.

3) Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

In a 2009 study of 638 adults with chronic low back pain, participants undergoing 10 acupuncture sessions (administered over the course of seven weeks) had greater improvement in symptoms that those who received standard care. One year after treatment, study members in the acupuncture group were also more likely to show significant improvements in dysfunction. A meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials, published in 2005, concluded that acupuncture effectively relieves chronic low back pain. However, the review's authors note that "no evidence suggests that acupuncture is more effective than other active therapies."

More on Acupuncture for Pain Relief

Emerging evidence suggests that people with the following conditions may also benefit from the use of acupuncture:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (also known as "TMJ")
  • Tennis elbow

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture is generally considered safe, and adverse events are rare. Additionally, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that "there are fewer adverse effects associated with acupuncture than with many standard drug treatments (such as anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections) used to manage painful musculoskeletal conditions."