According to the National Institutes of Health, research has demonstrated that acupuncture can be helpful for a variety of pain conditions including back pain, knee pain caused by osteoarthritis, and postoperative pain. There is also evidence to suggest that it helps relieve joint pain “associated with the use of aromatase inhibitors.”
Also, according to the NIH, an analysis of the data from 20 different studies totaling 6,376 participants with documented “painful conditions” showed that the benefits of acupuncture continued to be felt for a year after the end of treatment for all conditions except for neck pain.
However, pain isn’t the only condition acupuncture can help with. The NIH says that acupuncture has been studied for “at least 50 other health problems” and there is evidence that “acupuncture may help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, stress incontinence in women, and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment.”
Listed below are just a handful of results from acupuncture studies documenting how treatment helps for some of the most common health conditions. More details about each of these studies can be found by visiting the National Institutes of Health acupuncture facts page which is where this research was gathered.
In a 2018 review, data from 10 studies (2,413 participants) showed acupuncture was more effective than no treatment for osteoarthritis pain, and data from 9 studies (2,376 participants) showed acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture. The difference between acupuncture and no treatment was greater than the difference between acupuncture and sham acupuncture. Most of the participants in these studies had knee osteoarthritis, but some had hip osteoarthritis. The pain-relieving effect of acupuncture was comparable to that of NSAIDs.
Headaches & Migraines
A 2020 review of nine studies that compared acupuncture with various drugs for preventing migraine found that acupuncture was slightly more effective, and study participants who received acupuncture were much less likely than those receiving drugs to drop out of studies because of side effects.
There’s moderate-quality evidence that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of migraines (from a 2016 evaluation of 22 studies with almost 5,000 people). The evidence from these studies also suggests that acupuncture may be better than sham acupuncture, but the difference is small. There is moderate- to low-quality evidence that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of tension headaches (from a 2016 evaluation of 12 studies with about 2,350 people).
A 2015 evaluation of 13 studies of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis, involving a total of 2,365 participants, found evidence that acupuncture may help relieve nasal symptoms. The study participants who received acupuncture also had lower medication scores (meaning that they used less medication to treat their symptoms) and lower blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody associated with allergies.
A 2014 clinical practice guideline from the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery included acupuncture among the options health care providers may offer to patients with allergic rhinitis.
A 2016 evaluation of 11 studies of pain after surgery (with a total of 682 participants) found that patients treated with acupuncture or related techniques 1 day after surgery had less pain and used less opioid pain medicine after the operation.
With positive results like these, it’s no wonder the demand for acupuncture treatments is on the rise. Make an appointment today and talk to your local acupuncturist.