Acupuncture

Does Acupuncture Help Inflammation or Does it Make it Worse?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson July 24, 2022
Acupuncture on man's upper back

Acupuncture has been used around the world for thousands of years, and has been (observationally) thought to treat inflammation effectively. But, where does science stand on this? Are there any studies into this that back up this age-old treatment? In this article, we discuss recent studies around Acupuncture for inflammation and try to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. 

So, can Acupuncture help inflammation? Recent findings indicate that Acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation over time by stimulating local neurons, however, studies surrounding Acupuncture and inflammation are still in their infancy. 

Read on to learn more about Acupuncture and inflammation.

Can Acupuncture Help with Inflammation?

Acupuncture has been used for millennia as a way to treat conditions that we now know are associated with inflammation. However, current knowledge around the effectiveness of Acupuncture on inflammation is largely observational, with limited scientific understanding or evidence (1). 

That being said, a recent study (2) conducted in mice identified a subset of neurons that have to be present for Acupuncture to trigger an anti-inflammatory response. In these mice trials, Acupuncture stimulation was shown to reduce systemic inflammation when the body released excess inflammatory proteins (3). However, it can either suppress or promote inflammation, depending on where, when, and how it is used (3).

The study went on to determine which nerve pathways are activated by Acupuncture, and how they can help with inflammation. The team focused on chromaffin cells and noradrenergic neurons, which together secrete adrenaline and dopamine. They confirmed that these cells, when targeted with Acupuncture, are key regulators of inflammation in mice (3). 

This field requires further research, particularly on human subjects, to fully understand this phenomenon, however this research begins to explain the effectiveness of some acupuncture points over others. 

Which Types of Inflammation Can Acupuncture Help With?

Research has shown that Acupuncture may be effective in treating inflammation in relation to the following conditions (4):

  • Asthma
  • Rhinitis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Epicondylitis
  • Chronic Pain
  • Vasculitis

How Long Does Acupuncture Take to Work?

Many clients feel immediate relief from a single Acupuncture session, whilst others need multiple sessions to begin seeing results. However, all clients will likely need regular treatment to see real, lasting results. 

That being said, it is thought that the more severe, or chronic a condition it is, the longer it will take to begin seeing improvements. Additionally, the younger, and relatively healthier a client is, the quicker they will tend to see results (5). 

Learn more about how long it takes Acupuncture and Dry Needling to work in our recent blog

Can Acupuncture Cause Inflammation?

The mice study (2) may have found that Acupuncture can suppress inflammation when applied under certain circumstances, however, it also discovered that Acupuncture can worsen inflammation if given at the wrong time. When the mice were given Acupuncture before a cytokine storm (6), inflammation was reduced. However, when mice were given Acupuncture after a cytokine storm Acupuncture made inflammation worse (3). 

Final Thoughts

Scientific evidence surrounding Acupuncture’s effect on inflammation is still in its infancy, however there are promising studies to suggest that Acupuncture may be able to help to reduce inflammation. Although, it appears that Acupuncture has to be administered at the right time to be effective - right before a cytokine storm.  

Inflammation is a common symptom of a number of conditions, therefore this scientific headway into Acupuncture for inflammation will come as great news for a wide range of healthcare professionals around the world.

If you are interested in increasing your service offerings with Acupuncture and Dry Needling, Breeze Academy offers courses throughout the UK. Our courses provide you with all of the knowledge, skills, and confidence you need to begin treating conditions like inflammation in a more holistic way.

Take a look at our foundation-level Acupuncture courses online today, or get in touch with us for more information. 

Sources

  1. The Harvard Gazette - How Acupuncture Fights Inflammation

  2. Nature - A Neuroanatomical Basis for Electroacupuncture to Drive the Vagal-Adrenal Axis

  3. Harvard Magazine - How Acupuncture Relieves Inflammation

  4. Freek J Zijlstra, Ineke van den Berg-de Lange, Frank J P M Huygen, and Jan Klein - Anti-inflammatory Actions of Acupuncture

  5. The Acupuncturists - How Long Does it Take Acupuncture to Work?

6. NEJM - Cytokine Storm

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