How Acupuncture Works – Benefits – Can It Help Cancer – Addiction

Acupuncture involves fragile needles inserted at various points on the body and is most often used to treat pain.

There are few scarier words in the English language than “needle,” which is why the concept of acupuncture can set off those internal fear alarms for the uninitiated. However, historians estimate that the traditional Chinese treatment evolved more than 4,000 years ago, long before there was such a thing as “western medicine.”

  • Research has shown acupuncture can improve various bodily functions and promote the natural self-healing process.

Eastern practitioners believe the needles’ strategic placement reestablishes the balance of energy or chi known in the body. Many western advocates, suggests the Mayo Clinic, feel that proper positioning of the needles stimulates nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, increasing blood flow and boosting the body’s ability to fight pain.

How Acupuncture Works

According to Traditional Chines Medicine (TCM), “qi” can be unblocked by using specific acupuncture points, certain places on the skin. Acupuncture involves fragile needles inserted at various points on the body. It is most often used to treat pain. Acupuncture involves needles inserted at multiple points on the body. It is most often used to treat pain in places where the meridians come to the body’s surface.

  • There are more than 360 acupuncture points on the human body, with specific acupuncture points for each condition.

Acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control several body functions. The hypothesis is acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body’s natural painkillers (endorphins) to be released.

The consensus about acupuncture works is stimulating specific anatomic sites referred to as acupuncture points (acupoints). It produces a beneficial effect activating the body’s natural healing response system.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exhaustive studies prove acupuncture’s effectiveness on some conditions. However, researchers are still not entirely sure how or why it works.

Health Benefits

Scientific American reported on a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Researchers found that electro-acupuncture, where a mild electric current goes through the needles, proved to be as successful as Prozac in reducing symptoms of depression. An additional study in the same journal claimed that 12 weeks of acupuncture treatment relieved some of the sexual side effects of depression with western medications.

Western scientists are by no means done exploring the health benefits of acupuncture. A very vocal group of advocates claim that acupuncture’s healing properties do not stop with just pain. Many people believe it has a very positive effect on mental conditions, such as depression.

While not all physicians embrace acupuncture or other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, very few will argue that there is a place for alternative approaches, especially in addressing chronic pain. Most states in the U.S. require acupuncturists to be licensed and regulated. As with any healthcare professional, it’s essential to verify their credentials and receive an initial evaluation to ensure they’re a proper fit for your needs.

There are many conditions that people opt to use acupuncture for, either in conjunction with traditional western medicine. Some of these can include:

  • Lower back and neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic migraine and stress headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Labor pains
  • Dental pain
  • Postoperative nausea and vomiting
Acupressure Points

How many acupuncture points are there in the human body?

  • Acupuncture points tend to be where nerves enter a muscle.

Practionaires use palpation for tenderness. Points can also be located by feeling for subtle differences in the temperature of the skin. There are a total of 360 acupuncture points. Approximately 2/3 are “Yang,” and the other 1/3 are “Yin.” Acupuncture points are a unit of measure called the “Cun,” about the thumb’s width to the joint.

Acupuncture points are generally considered conduits for electrical signals. Acupuncture point location usually depends on specific anatomical landmarks as referenced by the pulse. Some points are considered therapeutically more valuable than others and are used more often for various health conditions.


Yes, acupuncture currently treats cancer patients. Cancer patients are treated with acupuncture to control pain and relieve anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, depression, and sleep issues. In addition, research for cancer treatment has shown acupuncture can help make the immune system stronger during chemotherapy for cancer. Therefore, acupuncture is a complementary therapy for treating cancer.


The oldest evidence of using acupuncture is in China around 2000 BC. Thus, the record indicates first using needles to treat a variety of medical problems now. The use of acupuncture has since spread to various parts of the world and then Europe by the early 1700s.

Acupuncture starts in the U.S. in the 1900s. As we might expect in western culture, an early practice focused less on the spiritual and energetic aspects of the ancient Chinese treatment and more on the body’s response to nerve stimulation. However, it wasn’t until the early ’70’s that acupuncture made its appearance into the popular American consciousness, thank to, at least in part, President Richard Nixon.

A reporter for the New York Times, James Reston, followed Nixon and Henry Kissinger on their historic visit to China. While there, Reston developed appendicitis. While in considerable pain after the surgery, Chinese doctors used acupuncture to relieve his pain.

Reston wrote an article for The Times entitled Now, About My Operation In Peking from his hospital bed. Recalling the acupuncture procedure, Reston wrote;

  • “there was a noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension (in the abdomen) within an hour and no recurrence of the problem after that.”

The first acupuncture center in the U.S. was in 1972. Acupuncturists do not give Reston total credit, however. The following year the Internal Revenue Service began allowing a deduction for acupuncture as a medical procedure.


IMPORTANT: Only use a qualified practitioner who uses a new set of disposable (single-use) needles