Acupuncture: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Ms. Thula Chelvan
Published at: 9/4/2024

Acupuncture: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Key Takeaway

  • Acupuncture is a traditional practice that aims to rebalance the body's energy flow.

  • It can help alleviate various types of pain, reduce stress, and enhance sleep and digestion.

  • Acupuncture is generally safe, but it can cause minor side effects like soreness or bruising.

  • The price of acupuncture can vary, and it might be included in some insurance policies.

  • Some people may feel the effects of acupuncture immediately, while others may need multiple sessions to notice a difference.

What Is The Purpose of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated from traditional Chinese medicine and its primary goal is to rebalance and stimulate natural healing by activating specific points on the body.

The practice of acupuncture is based on the belief that the body's vital energy also known as “qi” (pronounced chi) flows through the body along pathways called meridians. When this flow is blocked, it can lead to imbalances and health issues.

The goal is not only to relieve symptoms but also to address the underlying cause of health problems, promoting overall balance in the body.

How is Acupuncture Done

During an acupuncture session, a certified acupuncturist will insert sterile, fine, steel needles into precise spots on the body. These points–known as acupoints–are located throughout the body including the back, neck, head, and face. The acupuncture procedure usually causes very little pain, with most people only noticing a small prick. 

The needles may be left in place for a few minutes or up to 20 minutes, and may be manipulated gently (using heat or electrical stimulation or moved) to enhance therapy. The hair-thin needles are then disposed of after the session.

Acupuncture's Role in Modern Health and Wellness

These days, many people view acupuncture as a supplement to traditional medicine. According to the World Health Organization, data from over 80% of reporting countries indicates acupuncture's use within their healthcare systems. The United States reflects this trend, with a national survey demonstrating a 50% increase in acupuncture users between 2002 and 2012. 

Although the most recent national statistics are from 2012, they reveal that over 6% of American adults have utilized acupuncture, with nearly 2% using it within the past year. National surveys denote that pain relief is the primary reason the remedy is sought, with back, joint, and neck pain topping the list of reasons people undergo acupuncture. It's frequently included in treatment plans due to its wide range of therapeutic benefits, which could cover physical, emotional, and mental health.

Acupuncture: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Benefits of Acupuncture

Acupuncture offers a wide range of health benefits, and these are backed by both practical experience and scientific studies. Here's what it can do for you:

Managing and Relieving Pain

One of the most well-known advantages of acupuncture is its ability to handle and alleviate pain. Acupuncture has been shown to significantly decrease discomfort from chronic back pain to arthritis and migraines, often providing relief where other treatments have not.

Decreasing Stress and Stabilizing Emotions

Acupuncture is a physical practice and a mental health tool that aids in the reduction of stress and anxiety. It encourages relaxation and emotional equilibrium, providing a safe haven for those who are burdened by the demands of everyday life.

Boosting Immune System Performance

Acupuncture also boosts immune system performance in the following ways:

  • Acupuncture may stimulate the production and function of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off pathogens

  • Acupuncture modulates the body's inflammatory response, potentially reducing the severity and duration of illnesses. Acupuncture's influence on the inflammatory response may lead to milder symptoms and faster recovery times from illnesses like the common cold and flu.

Better Sleep and Digestive Function

Do you have trouble sleeping or suffer from digestive problems? Acupuncture could be the solution you're looking for. It has been shown to enhance the quality of sleep and can also help alleviate digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation, by promoting the body's innate digestive processes.

Potential Side Effects of Acupuncture

Just like any other treatment, it's important to know what side effects you might experience. Acupuncture is generally safe when administered by a trained professional, but there are some common reactions you might have:

Usual and Minor Discomforts

Feeling a short-lived sting or a dull pain when the needles are first inserted is not uncommon. Some individuals might have minor bleeding or bruising at the needle sites, or a temporary sensation of lightheadedness. These responses are typically temporary and should not be a reason for worry.

Acupuncture: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Cost of Acupuncture

Usually, the first session will cost you somewhere between $75 and $150, while subsequent treatments can range from $50 to $100 each. Keep in mind that these are average costs, and the actual price can be more or less based on the expertise of the health practitioner.

Insurance and Payment Plans

Acupuncture is now being acknowledged by many insurance plans as a form of medical treatment, and they may cover all or part of the cost. It's worth looking into whether your insurance policy covers acupuncture. In addition, some clinics may offer payment plans to help spread the cost over time.

How Long Does It Take for Acupuncture to Work?

On the average, people start to notice changes after three to five sessions. However, it's possible to feel a difference after just one treatment. During your first appointment, your acupuncturist will be able to give you a more accurate timeline based on your specific condition.

What Determines How Long It Takes For Acupuncture To Work

There are many factors that can influence how quickly you'll see results from acupuncture, including:

  • The type and severity of your ailment

  • Your general health and way of life

  • Your body's reaction to acupuncture

MSK Doctors for Your Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a powerful tool for managing musculoskeletal (MSK) issues. This traditional Chinese medicine practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. Studies have shown acupuncture can be effective in relieving pain, improving flexibility, and promoting healing. Whether you're struggling with chronic back pain, sports injuries, or arthritis, acupuncture can offer a natural and complementary approach to your MSK health journey.

At MSKDoctors, we're dedicated to providing patients with the tools they need to manage their musculoskeletal health. Our comprehensive directory connects patients with musculoskeletal specialists and offers valuable resources, such as exercise guides and self-care tips. We believe in the power of teamwork, research, and work to support evidence-based practices. Our musculoskeletal motion AI platform helps monitor movement patterns, assess performance, and fine-tune treatment plans. We're committed to providing personalized and effective care to patients.

Contact MSKDoctors today and join us on the path to holistic healing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is acupuncture a definitive cure for chronic conditions?

Acupuncture is a potent tool for managing chronic conditions, providing relief and improved quality of life for many. However, it's crucial to understand that while it can significantly alleviate symptoms, it may not be a definitive cure for all chronic conditions. The effectiveness of acupuncture can differ from person to person and is best used in combination with other treatment strategies.

Everyone's experience with acupuncture is different, and results can depend on many factors, such as the type and length of the condition, the person's overall health, and the skill of the acupuncturist. It's important to keep your expectations realistic and to talk about your specific circumstances with a certified professional.

How can acupuncture contribute to a comprehensive health plan?

Acupuncture can supplement a comprehensive health plan by focusing on both physical and emotional health. It's a well-rounded practice that can bolster other health and wellness activities, such as a healthy diet, consistent exercise, and stress management techniques.

When you're thinking about incorporating acupuncture into your health routine, keep the following in mind:

  • Talk to your acupuncturist about your health goals so they can customize your treatment.

  • Integrate acupuncture with other healthy habits to create a multiplier effect.

  • Use acupuncture as a preventative tool to keep your health and well-being in check.

Acupuncture can be a great addition to a holistic health plan, helping to prevent disease, maintain equilibrium, and promote the body's innate healing abilities.

What should I consider when selecting a competent acupuncture practitioner?

When selecting a competent acupuncture practitioner, it is essential to ensure the treatment is both safe and effective. Consider the following qualifications and characteristics:

  • Acupuncture certification and licensing from a reputable institution.

  • Being a member of professional acupuncture associations.

  • Positive feedback and testimonials from past patients.

  • Clear communication and readiness to answer your queries.

  • A treatment approach that matches your health philosophy and requirements.

Don't be shy to inquire about a practitioner's experience, especially with conditions like yours, and make sure they adhere to strict hygiene practices with single-use, sterilized needles.

How often should you get acupuncture to keep its benefits?

The number of acupuncture sessions you need to keep its benefits can change based on your personal health goals and conditions. At first, you may need to go more often, usually once or twice a week. When you start to see improvements, you might be able to go less often, like every other week or once a month, to keep up the benefits.


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