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What is Acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into precise points on the body to promote healing and improve functioning.
  • Needles are placed into precise locations on the body known as acupuncture points.
  • The needles may be stimulated with electricity or heat.
  • Typically, the needling will cause a slight pinching sensation, but otherwise is not painful.
  • According to the traditional Chinese explanation, illness results from the blockage of the flow of energy or Qi through the body. According to this tradition, the use of acupuncture helps to open up the flow of Qi and restore balance to the system.
  • The western medicine explanation is that acupuncture needles are placed in points located in the body's connective tissue and communicate with the central nervous system, sending electrical and chemical signals back to the brain.  The brain then directs production of regulatory pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory chemicals.

What Is the Background of Acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture was developed in China more than 2,500 years ago as part of a system of medical treatment that also includes the use of herbal agents, as well as a unique understanding of health and disease.
  • Acupuncture techniques have been adapted in various countries including Japan, Korea, France, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States.
  • Acupuncture is most widely known as part of traditional oriental medicine. Other forms include auricular therapy, Korean hand acupuncture, and western medicine approaches. Electro-acupuncture and percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS) has been used to treat musculoskeletal and nerve problems.
  • Scalp acupuncture is a specialized treatment for neurological, mood and movement disorders.
  • Research has shown benefit from acupuncture in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal pain.

What Are the Indications for Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat:

  • Lower back pain
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Neck pain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hypertension
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual cramps or irregularities
  • Tendonitis/bursitis
  • Perimenopausal symptoms
  • Depression

There is promising research supporting the use of acupuncture for conditions such as menstrual problems and nausea. It can also be used for other conditions, such as abdominal pain, hypertension, and other problems related to cancer or chemotherapy.

What Are the Contraindications?

Patients who are pregnant, have a pacemaker or heart condition, have a seizure disorder, or those with a bleeding disorder or taking blood thinners should discuss their condition with the acupuncturist before proceeding with acupuncture. While acupuncture can be used to treat symptoms in cancer patients, it should not be used in lieu of standard medical treatment.

Contact Us

UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine
Shadyside Place
580 S. Aiken Ave, Suite 310
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

For general information or to schedule an appointment, call 412‑623‑3023.