Does Acupuncture Actually Work?

Holistic therapies have come under scrutiny from skeptics and the science community alike. Many holistic therapies have been practised for thousands of years, it’s only in recently that we’ve had the capacity to give therapies proper scientific testing to see what their results can be, if any. Some therapies have failed the tests and have shown to have no medical benefits when compared to a placebo. Because of this holistic therapy in general has been given a bad rap and many people believe they do not work.

Acupuncture, massage and aromatherapy have shown to have very powerful health benefits and have performed well in medical tests. According to The Cochrane Collaboration, acupuncture can work well for the following conditions;

  • chronic lower back pain
  • tension-type headaches
  • migraines
  • nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy
  • nausea and vomiting after surgery
  • osteoarthritis
  • neck pain
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Some conditions, such as athsma, depression, insomnia and schizophrenia require more testing, because the verdicts so far have been unclear. Acupuncture doesn’t work for everybody, the effectiveness depends on the person and the condition they have. Acupuncture, especially when used regularly, can significantly reduce and prevent your symptoms.

If you’ve had a long term health condition such as migraines or neck pain, you may already be aware that modern medicine does not work for everybody. In fact, even the senior executive at GlaxoSmithKline, admits that drugs don’t work for most people. So if you have found that traditional painkillers or anti-nausea tablets aren’t working for you, you aren’t alone. Acupuncture can be a great alternative to painkillers and other medication. Particularly as acupuncture does not give the side affect of feeling ‘doped up’ and drowsy, which may be a hindrance to you if you’ve been prescribed a high dose of painkillers, or have been taking them for a long time. A lot of people report that they have a burst of energy after an acupuncture treatment.

How does acupuncture work?

The eastern ideas about how acupuncture works are different to the western medical explanations.

The eastern explanation: The energies of all matter, both organic and non organic are thought to be a manifestation of a force called ‘qi’. If the qi is unbalanced, then the physiological health of the person is affected. By inserting needles into specific points in the body, the qi becomes balanced and harmonised. This may seem like a strange concept to us, but bare in mind that this is a widely held belief throughout China, Japan, India and many other Asian cultures and they have been using it to heal for a very long time.

The western explanation: It is not fully known how acupuncture actually works, but scientists think it causes a neuro-physiological reaction. By inserting needles into the nerves it is thought that muscles can be released and brain signals can be changed.

What does acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture may look scary, but is actually quite a relaxing experience. The use of needles can put people off, but the needles that get stuck in your skin when you have an injection or blood test are much thicker than the needles we use in an acupuncture treatment. They are as thick as a few hairs. Generally, you won’t feel the needles going in your skin. However, since acupuncture taps straight into your nerves you may feel a variety of sensations, some can be quite powerful. You may feel a warmth or heaviness around the point, or you may feel a buzzing or zapping! Acupuncture can also stimulate an emotional response, you could feel a huge release of emotional energy, or get a heady, happy feeling. Some people feel very relaxed and sleepy after acupuncture and some people feel very energized and excitable. You will often not bleed from acupuncture and sterilized, disposable needles are used.

Acupuncture affects every person differently, the experience you have depends on who you are and what we’ve been working on in the session. If you are having trouble with on-going pain, then acupuncture is definitely worth a try! It may provide a long term solution for your chronic pain, nausea or headaches. If you’d like to book an acupuncture appointment with us here in Sheffield then call 0114 268 6677 or email

If you still have more questions about acupuncture, then take a look at our acupuncture FAQ’s.

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The Author

Lewis Payne

Lewis graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2013 with a First Class Honours in Physiotherapy, worked as Sheffield F.C.’s first team Physiotherapist, and now runs a leading-edge private clinic in Sheffield. With over ten years of experience, he specialises in manual therapy, advanced technological treatments, and exercise-based approaches, focusing on spinal and joint conditions, sports injuries, and specifically complex spinal issues like disc pathology and scoliosis. Lewis leads in IDD Therapy, performing over 6000 treatments, offers MRI referrals and reviews, and employs a holistic treatment philosophy viewing the body as a Tensegrity structure. He excels in postural analysis, soft tissue release techniques, and prescribes biomechanical corrective exercises to enhance natural movement.