What is acupuncture used for?

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People use acupuncture to relieve pain and treat certain health conditions. You can use it by itself or as part of a treatment program. Studies have found promising results for the use of acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy, chemotherapy, and postsurgery pain. Acupuncture also may be useful for:

  • Stroke rehabilitation , which involves relearning skills that a person lost because of brain damage from a stroke.
  • Headache. A study shows that adding acupuncture to standard treatment leads to significant, long-lasting relief from chronic headaches, especially migraines.1
  • Menstrual cramps.
  • Tennis elbow .
  • Fibromyalgia , or widespread pain and tenderness of muscle and soft tissue.
  • Myofascial pain , caused by spasm in the muscles.
  • Osteoarthritis , or the breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. A study found that acupuncture can reduce knee pain and increase movement of the knee in people with osteoarthritis.2
  • Low back pain. For people who have low back pain, acupuncture may help decrease pain and increase activity. Some studies show that acupuncture reduced pain and disability related to back problems more than usual treatment.3, 4 Another summary of several studies showed that acupuncture reduced pain and increased the ability to be active, but not any more than other treatments.5
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome , or pressure on a nerve in the wrist that results in tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of the fingers and hand.
  • Asthma , or inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs, resulting in periodic episodes of difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
  • Drug addiction . Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of withdrawal after a person stops taking a drug he or she is addicted to. It may also help prevent a relapse. More studies are needed to learn about the benefits of acupuncture.
  • Dental pain.
  • Labor pain.

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