What Are the Pros and Cons of Acupuncture for Pain Management?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Acupuncture typically has very few side effects, if any at all.
Acupuncture typically has very few side effects, if any at all.

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which very thin needles are inserted at various points on the body in an attempt to relieve different forms of pain. There are pros and cons to using acupuncture for pain management. On the plus side, acupuncture can improve one’s feeling of well-being, may reduce pain, and usually does not cause side effects. The potential down sides of using acupuncture for pain management are that it can be expensive, it is not guaranteed to be effective, and it can cause infections if unsterile equipment is used.

One of the most common benefits reported by those who use acupuncture for pain management is that it can improve one’s overall sense of well-being and fitness. Some report feeling extra energy after receiving a treatment. Others say that acupuncture makes them feel extremely relaxed.

Probably the most important potential benefit of using acupuncture for pain management is that it may reduce various types of pain, from arthritis-related soreness to migraines to menstrual discomfort. Some acupuncture patients report feeling relief from pain after just one treatment. Others notice results after a series of treatments.

Another positive aspect of acupuncture is that it generally causes few or no side effects either during or after treatment. Despite the fact that treatment sessions involve piercing the skin with needles, the needles used are extremely thin, and thus their insertion does not cause pain in most patients. It is also rare for patients to experience effects such as bruising or soreness following a treatment.

Many find that the price of treatments is a major disadvantage to using acupuncture for pain management. Often, multiple treatments are needed before one’s pain begins to diminish. As it is generally considered a form of alternative or complementary medicine, acupuncture may not be covered by one’s health insurance, and thus can be costly.

Further, acupuncture is not guaranteed to reduce pain, and a significant number of patients find that it has no noticeable effect. In fact, medical researchers are still uncertain as to why acupuncture lessens pain in some individuals. Based on comparative studies of groups receiving acupuncture and those receiving a mock treatment, it seems that the technique’s success or failure may be partly due to psychological factors.

Finally, using acupuncture for pain management can lead to infection if one’s acupuncturist works with unsterile equipment. To lower the risk of infection, patients should make sure that their practitioner uses sterile disposable needles. For patient safety, it is also important to verify that an acupuncturist is fully trained and certified to practice acupuncture.

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Discussion Comments


Acupuncture can be bad for ligaments, like in the hip. Also acupuncture had not helped my arthritis, and skeptics guide to the universe says it does not have any benefits. Don't waste your money.


I've been having acupuncture treatments for allergies once a week for 10 weeks and there is a noticeable improvement. I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst that I'm now a 3. I also stuttered pretty badly and when I told the practitioner this she inserted what I call the "stutter" needle. My stutter on a scale of 1 to 10 is now a 2. I wish I'd started acupuncture years ago!


The only downside to acupuncture for pain management is the cost. The price per session is kind of high. Some people can get their insurance companies to pay for a few sessions. But they still have to pay for the rest.


@donasmrs-- Those are great questions.

Acupuncture relieves pain by triggering the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals that block pain. They don't allow the brain from receiving pain signals. Acupuncture needles are inserted into nerves that cause endorphins to be released. So we can say that acupuncture activates the body's own mechanism for pain relief.

The great part about acupuncture is that it doesn't have side effects. It's absolutely safe and you can use it alongside your current treatments and medications. There isn't going to be a negative interaction.


How exactly do acupuncture needles relieve pain? I don't think I understand.

Has anyone here tried acupuncture for arthritis pain? Did it work for you? How many sessions did you need for pain relief?

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    • Acupuncture typically has very few side effects, if any at all.
      By: photok21
      Acupuncture typically has very few side effects, if any at all.