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What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that has been used for centuries to promote wellness and alleviate pain. This article delves into what acupuncture is, how it works, who can benefit from it, and other essential details.

Acupuncture is a healing therapy that involves inserting thin needles into the body at specific points. To enhance the healing effect, a small electric current may also be passed through the needles. Learn more about this practice here.


How Does Acupuncture Work?

Many people believe that life energy, called qi (pronounced CHEE), circulates throughout the body. When qi is blocked, it can lead to disease. Acupuncture helps facilitate the flow of qi, stimulating the nervous system to release chemicals that reduce pain.

Who Benefits from Acupuncture?

Research shows that acupuncture can be beneficial for various conditions, including:

Chronic Pain

  • Especially effective for musculoskeletal pain.

Nausea and Vomiting

  • Can help reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Other Conditions

  • Migraines

  • Insomnia

  • Abdominal pain

Will Acupuncture Cure My Pain?

For some individuals, acupuncture can help reduce pain for hours, days, or even weeks. While the relief may be significant, it is typically temporary. Acupuncture serves as a method to manage pain while you explore other long-term strategies.

How Do I Know if Acupuncture Will Work?

You and your acupuncturist will generally know if acupuncture is helping within four or five treatments. The effects can be immediate or may take some time to manifest. Keeping a journal of your symptoms and responses to treatments can be helpful.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are usually painless, but if you experience discomfort, inform your acupuncturist immediately. Most patients feel minimal to no pain as the needles are inserted.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture is generally safe when performed by a trained professional. Risks and side effects are rare but can include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Injury

Sterile needles are used only once, minimizing the risk of infection. If you experience bleeding after treatment, notify your acupuncturist. Some people may feel faint from the needles.

How Do I Get Acupuncture?

To receive acupuncture, you need a referral to the acupuncture program. The clinicians will determine if it is the right treatment for you.

Is Acupuncture Covered by My Health Plan?

Coverage for acupuncture under Kaiser Permanente health plans varies. It is usually recommended as an option for chronic pain. The amount of coverage depends on your specific condition.

What If It Doesn't Work or I Don't Want It?

Sometimes acupuncture works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Managing chronic pain typically requires a combination of approaches, including:

  • Physical therapy

  • Medication

  • Exercise

  • Relaxation techniques

  • Counseling to change negative thought patterns

Acupuncture can be an effective part of a comprehensive pain management plan.

What is Acupressure and How is It Different from Acupuncture?

Acupressure is another healing technique where pressure points are pressed with fingers to stimulate the body's natural healing abilities. This can help release qi, decrease muscle tension, and improve circulation. Acupressure can be practiced at home and complements acupuncture sessions.

When to Call Kaiser Permanente

Contact Kaiser Permanente if you experience any of the following after acupuncture:

  • Bleeding at the needle site that does not stop

  • Redness, swelling, or signs of infection at the needle site

Other Resources

Visit to:

  • View lab results and preventive health reminders

  • Email your doctor

  • Use interactive online tools for family health

Contact your facility’s Health Education Center for books, videos, classes, and additional resources.

Acupuncture is a valuable tool in the journey towards holistic health, providing relief and enhancing overall well-being.

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