University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Nicole Nisly, MD
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine
First Published: June 2004
Last Revised: June 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
If you've disregarded acupuncture because even the thought of needles makes you cringe, you might want to take a deep breath and relax. The benefits of acupuncture are hard to ignore.
As one of the oldest medical procedures in the world, acupuncture has been beneficial in treating a variety of health ailments. Although it has been practiced for more than 2,000 years in East Asia, acupuncture only became better known in the United States in the last 30 years.
Using very fine, solid needles, a trained acupuncturist will place the needles into specific points on the body. These acupuncture points are thought to stimulate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.
"According with tradition, it is believed that this stimulation corrects imbalances within the body, improving the body's ability to overcome or resist illnesses. In modern medicine terminology, acupuncture may release favorable neurotransmitters, improving pain control and stimulating immunity," says Nicole Nisly, MD, who heads the UI Hospitals and Clinics Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinic.
According to Nisly, acupuncture is most effective at treating pain, such as post-operative dental pain, headaches, tennis elbow, or muscle pain. It also can be used to treat symptoms of fibromyalgia, pain from shingles, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and addictions to alcohol or other drugs.
Most people feel minimal discomfort, if any, during acupuncture. Some people find the treatment relaxing, while others find it energizing.
If you are interested in giving acupuncture a try, talk to your doctor to see if it is an appropriate treatment for your condition. Be sure to find a qualified practitioner who is licensed and credentialed.