Acupuncture is an ancient therapy that involves stimulating points on the body called meridians with fine needles or by applying electric currents or heat.

Acupuncture originated in China over 2,000 years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In TCM, it's believed that disease is caused by an imbalanced or blocked flow of energy. Acupuncture is thought to stimulate energy flow, unblock energy, and rebalance energy, which results in healing.

People most commonly use acupuncture for pain-related conditions, depression, nausea, and sleeping problems. It is also used for addictions, several mental disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson disease and cerebral palsy, and many other purposes, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
Acupuncture is likely safe when given appropriately and with sterile needles. Side effects are uncommon but might include bruising and swelling. Inappropriate use of acupuncture needles can cause serious side effects including infections.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Traditional acupuncture with sterile needles is possibly safe when used appropriately when pregnant or breast-feeding. But there might be certain acupuncture points that should be avoided during pregnancy. Also, there isn't enough reliable information to know if electroacupuncture or laser acupuncture is safe when pregnant. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children. Acupuncture is possibly safe in children. It's been used in research without any serious side effects.


NatMed Pro rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
Likely effective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly effective Effectiveness definitions
  • Joint pain caused by drugs called aromatase inhibitors (aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgias). Acupuncture seems to reduce joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitors.
  • Back pain. Acupuncture seems to reduce back pain better than no treatment at all. At least 5 sessions seem to be the most helpful for long-term relief. But it's not clear if acupuncture is any better than sham acupuncture.
  • Tiredness in people with cancer. Using acupuncture or electroacupuncture seems to help improve symptoms in people experiencing fatigue after cancer treatment.
  • Pain in people with cancer. Using acupuncture or electroacupuncture seems to help improve cancer-related pain, especially in adults who cannot tolerate other pain treatments.
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drug treatment. Using acupuncture along with anti-nausea medications seems to reduce vomiting right after chemotherapy better than taking anti-nausea medications alone.
  • A condition that causes persistent pelvic pain, urinary problems, and sexual problems (Chronic prostatitis and chronic pelvic pain syndrome). Acupuncture and electroacupuncture seem to be beneficial for chronic pelvic pain.
  • Depression. Using acupuncture alone or along with conventional antidepressants seems to reduce symptoms in people with mild-to-moderate depression.
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia). Acupuncture seems to help reduce indigestion. It might even work as well as or better than certain drugs.
  • Fibromyalgia. Acupuncture seems to reduce fatigue, anxiety, and pain in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Insomnia. Acupuncture using needles seems to improve sleep quality in people with insomnia. Electroacupuncture doesn't seem to help
  • Labor pain. Receiving acupuncture during labor seems to reduce labor pain.
  • Migraine. Acupuncture seems to help prevent migraine headaches. But it's not clear if it helps treat migraines.
  • Neck pain. Using acupuncture alone or along with pain-relieving medicine seems to help reduce neck pain.
  • Osteoarthritis. Acupuncture seems to reduce pain and improve mobility in people with knee or hip osteoarthritis.
  • Nausea and vomiting after surgery. Acupuncture helps reduce nausea and vomiting in adults and children after surgery. It might work as well as conventional medicines.
  • Tension headache. Acupuncture seems to help relieve tension headache. But other treatments such as physical therapy might work better.
Likely ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly ineffective Effectiveness definitions
  • Asthma. Acupuncture doesn't seem to improve most asthma symptoms or lung function.
  • Nerve damage in the hands and feet of people with HIV/AIDS. Acupuncture doesn't seem to reduce nerve pain in people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Quitting smoking. Acupuncture does not seem to help people quit smoking.
There is interest in using acupuncture for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.
Insufficient evidence Effectiveness definitions

Dosing & administration

Many different styles of acupuncture exist, including traditional acupuncture, Western acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and laser acupuncture. The appropriate or safe use of acupuncture depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Interactions with pharmaceuticals

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines. Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Interactions with herbs & supplements

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Interactions with foods

There are no known interactions with foods. has licensed monographs from TRC Healthcare.
This monograph was last reviewed on 07/12/2023 11:00:00 and last updated on 08/07/2022 06:20:07. Monographs are reviewed and/or updated multiple times per month and at least once per year.
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