How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture: How it Works, Uses, and Side Effects

Acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin needles through your skin at specific points on your body. A key component of Traditional Chinese medicine, it is mostly used to treat pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine defines it is as a method for balancing the flow of the body’s life energy — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncturist believe that your energy flow will be restored.

Acupuncture: How it Works, Uses, and Side Effects
Acupuncture: How it Works, Uses, and Side Effects

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Researchers don’t fully understand how it might work, but there are many theories. One theory is that it works by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller chemicals.

It is also said to affect the autonomic nervous system (which controls bodily functions) and the release of chemicals that regulate blood flow and pressure, reduce inflammation, and calm the brain.

Acupuncture Uses

It is said to be useful in addressing a variety of health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain 
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Sciatica
  • Sinus congestion
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Tinnitus
  • Weight loss

Some people use it to improve fertility. It is also used to quit smoking and as a way for the treatment of other addictions.

Side Effects

Here is a brief description of some side effects that can occur after it taking acupuncture treatment.


People can feel fatigued after it. A more common result is increased energy, but sometimes the “acu land” effect goes on a little longer. This is your body telling you that it’s exhausted. Feeling fatigued is not to be worried about, but it is just a warning sign that you need to take rest.


Body parts where needles get inserted can feel sore after needles are removed. Soreness from it typically dissipates within 24 hours. However, big trigger point releases can cause extra soreness that lasts a few days.

Muscle twitching

If during or after an acupuncture treatment you feel that one of your muscles is twitching, especially if it’s a muscle that was just needled, tell your acupuncturist.


This is unusual, but it can happen – and on very rare occasions, post-acupuncture light-headedness can result in fainting. If you feel lightheaded after the treatment, sit in your acupuncturist’s waiting room for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.

Emotional release

Sometimes people cry during treatment. The emotional release that can happen in acupuncture commonly is a positive experience. It’s a sign that it is working.

However, these side effects shouldn’t be a cause of worry as you know your body best. In case of any of the above side effects or feel like they’re terrible or lasting too long – or if you notice any additional negative reactions of treatment – you should contact your acupuncturist immediately.


If you are having difficulty in handling pain or other health issues with conventional methods, acupuncture may be worth a try. Just be sure to discuss with your doctor whether it’s suitable for you or not.

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