7 Conditions Acupuncture May Help Treat

  • Male rubbing his lower back
    1. Lower Back Pain
    Lower back pain is a very common condition in the United States—about 80% of adults will experience it at some point in their lives. It is also the most common cause of work-related disability. Acupuncture has shown positive results in studies of lower back pain. Doctors may recommend trying acupuncture if self-care strategies haven’t worked or to complement traditional medical treatment. Major insurance providers are likely to cover acupuncture for lower back pain.
  • male-holding-neck
    2. Neck Pain
    Research generally supports using acupuncture for neck pain. Evidence suggests acupuncture works best in the short-term—for about three months—in people with chronic neck pain. This includes both pain relief and quality of life. It’s not clear how long these benefits last. There is also evidence acupuncture is effective for neck pain when people combine it with their usual care. Neck pain is also likely to be a medically necessary use of acupuncture under major insurance plans.
  • knee pain, knee
    3. Osteoarthritis Pain
    Millions of Americans suffer from osteoarthritis. The pain from this degenerative arthritis can be severe. But studies suggest acupuncture may help. This is especially true for knee and hip arthritis. Studies looking at this use for acupuncture generally found acupuncture provides more pain relief than not using it. However, simulated acupuncture—using something other than real acupuncture needles—was just as effective. Major insurance plans may cover acupuncture combined with medical treatment for osteoarthritis.
  • Stress
    4. Headache Pain
    Researchers have studied acupuncture for both tension headaches and migraines. Results suggest it is effective for both types of headache. But studies differ as to whether acupuncture is more effective than simulated acupuncture or not. Regardless, the evidence points to a reduction in the frequency and severity of tension headaches and migraines. Major health insurance plans are likely to cover acupuncture for migraines. Coverage may vary for other types of headache.
  • Women with pain
    5. Nausea and Vomiting
    Treatment of nausea and vomiting is one of the most established uses for acupuncture. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) recognized this use back in 1997. They found it was effective for nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. These two scenarios are likely to count as medically necessary under major insurance plans. The NIH also found acupuncture was possibly effective for morning sickness. This use may or may not be covered by insurance.
  • Toothache
    6. Dental Disorders
    The 1997 NIH report also identified treating postoperative dental pain as an effective use of acupuncture. Since then, organizations, such as WHO (World Health Organization), have also recognized the usefulness of acupuncture in other painful dental conditions. This includes temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD). If you suffer from this condition, your health insurance may cover acupuncture treatment.
  • Knee arthritis and alternative therapies
    7. Conditions With Insufficient Evidence
    There are dozens of other uses for acupuncture, from high blood pressure to allergies to menstrual cramps. And there are hundreds of studies about acupuncture’s effectiveness. For most conditions, these numerous studies lack solid methods or the results contradict each other. Like any field, acupuncture is most effective in the hands of a skilled and experienced practitioner. Finding one with extensive knowledge about your condition may mean the difference between treatment success and failure.
7 Conditions Acupuncture May Help Treat

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement Online 1997 Nov 3-5;15(5):1-34.
  2. Acupuncture: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction
  3. Clinical Policy Bulletin: Acupuncture. Aetna. http://www.aetna.com/cpb/medical/data/100_199/0135.html
  4. How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion and Emotional Well-being. University of California San Diego. http://cim.ucsd.edu/clinical-care/acupuncture.shtml
  5. Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm
  6. Mayer DJ. Acupuncture: an evidence-based review of the clinical literature. Annu Rev Med. 2000;51:49-63.
  7. World Health Organization. Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 31
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