who has experience with acupuncture? helpful? not helpful?

I’ve been dealing with some upper back/lower neck pain on one side for nigh on two years now. It’s not debilitating pain, but it pretty much never goes away. If you’ve ever really overdone it on the activity in any muscle and it was sore for a few days, or slept weird and woke up with a sore neck…it’s that quality of pain…the sort of pain that I’ve had lots of times and resolved on it’s own, perhaps with stretching, self-massage, maybe some ibuprofen, maybe a little down time

except I suddenly realized one day it had been almost two years! I made an appointment to see a physical therapist a friend had used and Friday will be my sixth visit with her, probably my last because yesterday she told me that since there had been essentially no change in my condition she was starting to think there might be a cause outside of her scope of practice.

She was thinking of maybe an orthopedist? I asked what she thought about acupuncture because the only thing she had done to me that seemed to make any difference (though not lasting) was something called “dry needling” which is different from acupuncture (she says) and involves an electric current going in the needles too (less like torture than it sounds but not fun either). It was also the only thing she had which wasn’t something I could do myself (with direction I can get the same quality massage from my husband, I can do heat, I can do exercises)
She didn’t have any objection to the idea.

I’ve found an acupuncturist who’s affordable enough that I could probably swing six visits…any thoughts?

(I’ll probably go see the orthopedist too, but don’t feel optimistic about that)

I used to think of acupuncture as something the “OM” people did, and scoffed at it. But that was before I broke my elbow. And then the arm didn’t want to straighten out and kept contracting. It felt dead in the joint, if that makes sense. After about 9 mos. of PT, and “silly” exercises, I was frustrated. And so my therapist did the needling. I didn’t feel anything just after it, but when I woke up the next morning, the joint no longer felt “dead” and my arm is good now. So I was pretty sold.
Then about 3 years later, I fell off a little stool and crunched my knee up under me. I felt something tear. I’ve forgotten the exact Dx, but healing meant I wore a brace for about 8 weeks. But it still twinged and esp. when I got up after sitting for a while, it hurt and I limped. So I went, this time to a regular acupuncturist who did the needles and the needles with the electricity attached. 1 visit. I now have a good knee and don’t limp with only the most occasional twinge.
I’m still not an “OM” person, but IMHO, acupuncture is the real deal.

there is no proof via trials that it works, but people do use it and it works for them. There are regular MDs who do it , mostly guys from China.

I had absolutely terrible back pain after my son was born. I tried three different physical therapists, because my GP was convinced that would work, and going to one was a condition of her prescribing tramadol for me. (I was taking three Rx Motrin, three tramadol, and six extra-strength Tylenol every day.) The first two PT did absolutely zip for me, even though they were experienced, and I did all the exercises faithfully. I asked my GP about seeing a surgeon. She wanted me to see one more PT, because she said the most people had to see more than one before hitting on the person who helped them. She promised that if, after six visits, there was no improvement, she would send me to a doctor who would do the kind of work-up that would show whether surgery was warranted (I assume an orthopedist).

The third person was a miracle worker. After six visits, I was so much better, I thought this was really the answer. I had not been able to walk more than a block without feeling like I was going to throw up, and now I could walk up to a mile on a treadmill, which gave me the courage to start walking place everywhere every day (I was afraid at first, in case I went to far, and couldn’t get back home). I bought a bicycle, and started riding every morning for about a mile, and found that that was a good core strengthening exercise.

Last summer, I went to Greece for a cousin’s wedding, and stayed to do some touristy stuff. Greece is all walking. I must have done 3-5 miles every day, and much of it was up stairs, or up and down pretty steep hills. I was fine. I could not ever have done that before this PT.

So it is possible you have not clicked with the right person, and might want to give PT another chance.

Each PT did very different things. The one who finally worked put me in traction for 20 minutes, three times a week, and did manipulation on my back that was similar to what chiropractors do, but she explained the difference between PT and chiropractic, so understand that I’ve never actually been to a chiropractor, and sating that she was doing manipulations is just my lay description. We also did a lot of exercises that strengthened the muscles that I hadn’t been using for a long time when I’d been having back pain. The third thing was something the second PT had also done, but she hadn’t done the traction, which really helped, I thought.

Just my 2 cents.

I had one trigger an insomnia problem that has lasted for 1.5 years and counting (mostly under control now).

However I had another who was able to help fix it as well as give me some help with some psych issues i have.

For me, it is worth it.

that’s not true. There is quite a bit of evidence that acupuncture works reasonably well to relieve muscle/skeletal pain. For example, neck pain:

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 May 4;(5):CD004870. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004870.pub4.
Acupuncture for neck disorders.
Trinh K1, Graham N, Irnich D, Cameron ID, Forget M.
Author information
Neck pain is one of the three most frequently reported complaints of the musculoskeletal system. Treatments for neck pain are varied, as are perceptions of benefit. Acupuncture has been used as an alternative to more conventional treatment for musculoskeletal pain. This review summarises the most current scientific evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture for acute, subacute and chronic neck pain. This update replaces our 2006 Cochrane review update on this topic.
To determine the effects of acupuncture for adults with neck pain, with focus on pain relief, disability or functional measures, patient satisfaction and global perceived effect.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Manual, Alternative and Natural Therapy Index System (MANTIS), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and the Index to Chiropractic Literature (ICL) from their beginning to August 2015. We searched reference lists, two trial registers and the acupuncture database Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS) in China to 2005.
We included published trials that used random assignment to intervention groups, in full text or abstract form. We excluded quasi-randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Two review authors made independent decisions for each step of the review: article inclusion, data abstraction and assessment of quality of trial methods. We assessed study quality by using the Cochrane Back Review Group ‘Risk of bias’ tool. We used consensus to resolve disagreements, and when clinical heterogeneity was absent, we combined studies by using random-effects meta-analysis models.
Of the 27 included studies, three represented individuals with whiplash-associated disorders (WADs) ranging from acute to chronic (205 participants), five explored chronic myofascial neck pain (186 participants), five chronic pain due to arthritic changes (542 participants), six chronic non-specific neck pain (4011 participants), two neck pain with radicular signs (43 participants) and six subacute or chronic mechanical neck pain (5111 participants).For mechanical neck pain, we found that acupuncture is beneficial at immediate-term follow-up compared with sham acupuncture for pain intensity; at short-term follow-up compared with sham or inactive treatment for pain intensity; at short-term follow-up compared with sham treatment for disability; and at short-term follow-up compared with wait-list control for pain intensity and neck disability improvement. Statistical pooling was appropriate for acupuncture compared with sham for short-term outcomes due to statistical homogeneity (P value = 0.83; I(2) = 20%). Results of the meta-analysis favoured acupuncture (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.23, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.20 to -0.07; P value = 0.0006). This effect does not seem sustainable over the long term. Whether subsequent repeated sessions would be successful was not examined by investigators in our primary studies.Acupuncture appears to be a safe treatment modality, as adverse effects are minor. Reported adverse effects include increased pain, bruising, fainting, worsening of symptoms, local swelling and dizziness. These studies reported no life-threatening adverse effects and found that acupuncture treatments were cost-effective.Since the time of our previous review, the quality of RCTs has improved, and we have assessed many of them as having low risk of bias. However, few large trials have provided high-quality evidence.
Moderate-quality evidence suggests that acupuncture relieves pain better than sham acupuncture, as measured at completion of treatment and at short-term follow-up, and that those who received acupuncture report less pain and disability at short-term follow-up than those on a wait-list. Moderate-quality evidence also indicates that acupuncture is more effective than inactive treatment for relieving pain at short-term follow-up.

I can vouch for dry needling. I had back pain from an accident that made it difficult to sit for longer than 30 minutes. Long car rides for a big problem. I did dry needling as part of physical therapy for about 3 months and it fixed me up, after years of suffering.

You could try to find an acupuncturist that does Zero Balancing that was done
by Fritz Smith . I went to a person that does Zero Balancing b/c my shoulder was really hurting . I only needed one treatment and I was better , my shoulder was hurting for weeks . I been to an acupuncturist and it help me and helped my daughter , she was getting horrible headaches and I didn’t want to be giving her meds so young. I also knew someone that had horrible back pains and acupuncture helped her , yes it does work .

The OP may indeed find an acupuncture practitioner whose needling seems to help. If such is the case, it won’t be due to re-established/improved flow of chi.

Based on the best-quality research (which most recently has included the finding that acupuncture works about as well as sham acupuncture, where the needles don’t actually enter the skin), acupuncture has been revealed to essentially be a ritualistic form of placebo. For instance, here’s a comprehensive review of 13 randomized clinical trials, with its conclusions about acupuncture’s effectiveness against pain:

“We found a small analgesic effect of acupuncture that seems to lack clinical relevance and cannot be clearly distinguished from bias. Whether needling at acupuncture points, or at any site, reduces pain independently of the psychological impact of the treatment ritual is unclear.”


And since the OP was asking for personal experience with acupuncture: 1) I had such treatment years ago, and 2) it did not work.

As the master said:


Here’s an extensive account of the modern history of acupuncture and a thorough review of the literature by David Colquhoun and Steven Novella.

It’s an interesting read. It was promoted by Mao during the Cultural Revolution for political reasons, and came to the west largely as a result of an anecdotal article written by a New York Times journalist around the time of Nixon’s visit.

The synopsis is: publications out of China and other Asian countries are highly unreliable. Acupuncture studies in general have suffered from bias and terrible controls. But there are now many large studies, and better controls have been developed using sham treatments.

The bottom line: placebo effect.

I had some back pain about the same time a coworker was dealing with the same sort of thing. She suggested chiropractic/acupuncture (she found a guy who did both). She was encouraged to do 3 treatments a week, but could only afford two. After a month of treatment she was doing much better, as was I.

I was in the control group. I did nothing (I avoided heavy lifting, as did she) and still got better.

I did it for elbow pain and chronically clogged ears. It helped both problems.

At the insistence of several in my family I decided to give acupuncture a try on my chronic shoulder problem. I went in for a series of treatments. These included both putting needles in various places, putting burning needles in various places (or some sort of needles with burning stuff on them I guess), some sort of burning stuff with suction cup thingies and needles hooked up to electrical leads. Mostly, it did nothing for me. The needles didn’t really hurt. What DID hurt, a lot, was the needles with the electrical leads, which made my muscles jump in my shoulder and was extremely painful.

After about 10 visits (I wanted to give up on the first one, but was told you have to go through a treatment cycle to REALLY know how great it is) I gave up and basically went back to that nasty ‘western medicine and big pharma’, had surgery and recovery workouts and therapy, and now it’s pretty much a non-issue. So, anecdotally I’d say it was pretty worthless and didn’t do a thing for me. My family still insists it’s the greatest thing and that it works MUCH better than nasty western medicine and big pharm, but to me it didn’t seem to. Maybe you just got to believe…or, maybe I just got someone who wasn’t very good at it or did it wrong.

It is different, both in theory and in practice. Here is a good article (full disclosure, it is written by a PT) that explains the differences. The same needles in both are used in both, but the reasoning behind needle placement and manipulation is very different. Acupuncture places needles along invisible lines (meridians), dry needling places them in neuromuscular pain points (aka trigger points)

Low level electrical current is an option with the needles but it is certainly not always used, much like using external current from a TENS unit is sometimes, but not always, used in conjunction with other treatment modalities.

How do you know which part of the PT was responsible for fixing you up?

I did trigger point injections - they were wonderful. They are “make the muscle jump” - hurts, I nearly passed out once, but worked.

I did acupuncture thinking “same theory” - but it really isn’t. An acupuncture needle does not go nearly deep enough to stimulate the muscle. Moreover, they wanted to put needles in places like my wrist - and the one that was in my wrist must have hit something - because then I added a month of wrist pain on top of my back pain.

Have you tried a tens unit - which is electrical stimulation. Target carries them OTC for like twenty bucks.

For all who are dissing acupuncture: My neighbor is a very good neurologist and he performs acupuncture (and he is not Chinese).

That’s nice.

Hey, the Cleveland Clinic has a center for “integrative medicine” which not only offers acupuncture, but other “alternative” modalities including therapeutic touch, craniosacral therapy and reiki, which they describe as “a form of hands-on, natural healing that uses universal life force energy.” And the guy they hired to run their center is an M.D. whose practice offers homeopathy to pregnant women.

The point here is that physicians/centers which deliver good evidence-based care have increasingly expanded into offering woo, mostly because it is a money-maker. That does not make the woo a viable form of medicine.

And Ben Carson is a talented neurosurgeon. (I don’t think he’s Chinese either.)

Before the Enlightenment, common medical treatments were bloodletting, trepanation and the administration of mercury. We did not make progress by listening more carefully to the opinions and anecdotes of practicing doctors. Progress in medicine, as in all science, began with the development of the scientific method. Medical studies are notoriously prone to bias, and require particularly rigorous methodology (careful controls, double or triple blinding) to untangle real effects from placebo. The aphorism that anecdotes are not evidence is particularly true for medicine. Furthermore, MDs who do not continue into research are not usually trained as scientists, and in my experience they are quite as susceptible to confirmation bias as anyone else.