Acupuncture successes and failures wanted
March 27, 2011 8:34 PM   Subscribe

have you tried acunpuncture for any hardcore conditions? i'm hoping to hear experiences about what kind of diseases/symptoms it's helped with. i am not a special snowflake. i am not a special snowflake.

i'd love to hear about personal experiences with acupuncture beyond treatment of specific things like muscle pain - wherein needle + spasm = relief (which i swear by). i've had less than noteworthy results with more intangible problems like anxiety, insomnia, fatigue.

a little background: i have several serious autoimmune diseases but traditional medicines aren't working enough. nontraditional medicines haven't worked at all. lately each month gets more ridiculous. for context, last week's appt. uncovered severe anemia, borderline diabetes (i weigh 103lbs, eat no processed foods) and asthma (nonsmoker for a decade). those are the ones you've heard of. i recently joked to a friend that i've got 99 diseases but VD ain't one.

but i'm not a special snowflake - lots of people are walking disasters too. the question is ... has acupuncture (specifically) been a help? did the long haul pay off? were there early signs that signaled things were a-changing?

i have an acupuncturist i adore; he is reasonably priced and genuinely seems to like and care about me. but a real commitment can still get expensive because insurance doesn't cover the needles and my time/energy is sacred because i don't have much of it.

fwiw, please limit replies to the question. i've been vague because i don't want snowflake advice. i've done everything, and a decade of "you know what you should do ..." has sucked the life out of me. it's well intentioned - and i don't mean to be a dick here - but YANMD so it's condescending and dismissive. i gots a doctor and i gots the internet.

tl;dr. anyone have experiences with the needles helping? not helping? how long was it before you saw results? how much time did you try before giving up? did one doctor work when another failed? were the results worth the cost? was there a glimmer of hope that compelled you to go the distance?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Generally speaking, Ask is not a great resource for supportive answers around chiropractors, acupuncture, or herbal anything. I LOL at homeopathy, too, but I have found both chiropractors and acupuncture to be useful.

There are legitimate studies that show acupuncture is statistically useful in fertility treatments. I tired it, but it was sort of a last-ditch effort before we actually gave up and stopped TTC. A number of women I know credit acupuncture with their conceptions. I am not going to argue with them.

More broadly, I would not discount the "glimmer of hope" aspect. When nothing is working, I think there's value in doing something tangible with your body that you hope will improve things, and in having an hour a week where someone's actual job is to physically touch and take care of you. If you feel like working with an acupuncturist might "clear some paths" and help bring back some energy, I say stick with it while it feels like a positive thing to do. Sure, it may be a placebo effect, but the fact of the matter is that the placebo effect is effective in a statistically significant percentage of the time.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom, not a big proponent of alternative medicine, had some amazing results with acupuncture for psoriasis. Not sure if that's one of the autoimmune disorders you're dealing with, but there you go.
posted by purenitrous at 9:53 PM on March 27, 2011

Yeah - this is what you get when you ask about acupuncture on metafilter: metatalk.

I've tried acupuncture for Bell's Palsy - didn't seem to do anything for me and I quit pretty quickly. And my insurance even covered acupuncture. You should check around and see if acupuncture is ever covered by your insurance; for me, the initial person I went to was not covered but the person I switched to was. Worth checking out.
posted by slide at 10:02 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I tried acupuncture for a while for chronic, incapacitating migraines. (By incapacitating, I mean I was unable to have a normal life, because I had them what felt like all the time.)

It was relaxing, which probably did me some temporary good--but then, so would any other relaxing experience that I could have had for free. It was a complete waste of money, and considering that at the time my desperate single mom had to pay for it out of pocket, it was a significant waste.

I wish I had been skeptical enough back then to say no, because I regret that we gave her hard-earned money to that industry.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:56 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can confirm your bias. Acupuncture and TCM *from an extremely experienced and attentive acupuncturist* can really help with root causes of multiple diseases all hitting at once, like you have. But you have to a) go to someone who really knows what they're doing, b) take their advice, and c) be patient, it could take several months.
In my case, I was unsuccessful with conceiving for twelve months. I found the right acupuncturist, followed his advice and came in for twice weekly treatments for a month, and got pregnant. When I was due, the OB was pushing for a C-section because I had high blood pressure. The acupuncturist induced me and there was a baby in my arms, delivered vaginally, six hours later. Labor didn't even hurt that much.
My wife has suffered from insomnia and anxiety most of her life. She saw different doctors, was on lots of different meds, but only treatment through acupuncture and following the acupuncturist's advice re eating, exercise, qi gong moves gave her any lasting results. She is now a nurse dealing with dying cancer patients daily, and as long as she does what she's been told to do by Dr. Liu, she stays drug free and sleeps fine.
I must note I've seen maybe 15 different acupuncturists in my life. I believe in it, for the most part. But experience, intelligence, and very good training really matter. Patience and following their orders matter. The medicine they prescribe matters. Don't go to your buddy who is in acu school for a $20 treatment and expect results. And if you're seeing someone and you don't see any results after a couple of months, despite following their instructions, go see someone else.
posted by pomegranate at 4:54 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had acupuncture for eczema (or some kind of skin horror) at a very stressful time of my life, and it helped me a lot. I also had it for what turned out to be a physical large-scale problem - which eventually needed a hysterectomy - and it didn't help at all.

FWIW I think acupuncture stimulates endorphins (and possibly other healing/chemical responses), while avoiding pain nerves. So it almost simulates injury, and evokes a response, without you being injured. I think that's what the models they use do, though it is conceptualised differently. I think that can be enough in some cases. The time it worked, I got a positive response very rapidly.

I've written this in a very hasty way because you don't want a big tract. That gives you the gist.
posted by communicator at 6:09 AM on March 28, 2011

The post title specifically rules out confirmation bias: "Acupuncture successes AND FAILURES wanted".

I guess you could count me as a failure. I went to a physiotherapist (medically qualified and accredited) for about 20-30 sessions a few years ago for RSI (neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger pains due to computer-based work). Besides massage and posture training exercises, he also used acupuncture (he is one of relatively few UK physiotherapist qualified in it).

I was happy to try it, just out of curiousity. In the end I couldn't report any significant effect on my condition from the therapy, either immediate or long-term (I was sadly very bad at sticking to the exercise routines.) The acupuncture sometimes left me with an ache in the treated area that lasted a day or two. The short-term relief I got from massage was far more significant.

My RSI largely went away when I changed jobs, to a job with less stress.
posted by snarfois at 6:13 AM on March 28, 2011

I went to acupuncturist on a regular basis for chronic fatigue. I didn't know it at the time, but the fatigue was caused by multiple sclerosis. The acupuncture definitely helped with the fatigue. It gave me a very deep relaxation which helped clear the fatigue out. It didn't cure anything, though.
posted by alms at 6:17 AM on March 28, 2011

My wife tried acupuncture for knee pain, as a what-the-hell-we've-tried-everything-else-let's-give-this-a-shot thing.

It was not effective.
posted by ook at 7:37 AM on March 28, 2011

(to clarify, it was not muscle pain: it was later diagnosed as patella femoral syndrome, corrected with an injection of synovial fluid and years of physical therapy. That was effective.)
posted by ook at 7:38 AM on March 28, 2011

Have you ever heard or tried Naet Therapy? (

It's a combination of acupuncture, acupressure and anti-allergy therapy to relief symptoms - depending on the practitioner. There's very strict guidelines with Naet and you have to be in a place where you can commit to it (varying restrictions on food, liquids and activities - depending on treatment).

I have several autoimmune diseases and found it very helpful. I strongly believe that autoimmune disease is based in allergies (which is based from stress). Naet therapy is a long and slow process - no quick nor immediate results. And unfortunately, it can be expensive.

I have done just acupuncture for torn muscles. I tore a rotor cuff once (which is extremely painful) and after going for various treatments and drugs - it was acupuncture that gave me the most pain relief. Especially the type where they heat the needles and/or apply electrical currents to the needles. Sorry - don't know what's the different treatments are called. I also had a practitioner that was a Doctor of acupuncture from China. She was a life saver!

I also had great success with Myers Cocktail. I never realized what it felt like to "feel good", until I completed several weeks of Myers Cocktail. It involves needles - but it's not acupuncture!.
posted by what's her name at 7:54 AM on March 28, 2011

Hopefully this isn't relevant for you, but there is good scientific evidence that acupuncture can be effective for cancer-treatment-related nausea and headaches (scroll to "What is the Evidence?").
posted by vytae at 8:04 AM on March 28, 2011

I have a poorly diagnosed autoimmune disorder, might or might not be RA (yay! would be better not to have RA). Gave acupuncture a fair try, did nothing for me. Diet (no dairy, supplementing Vitamin D, fish oil) helps a little. A managed exercise program (just enough not to cause rebound problems from exercise) helps. Sunshine helps. that's my .02. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2011

After 10 years of taking daily medication for debilitating migraines, I tried acupuncture at the suggestion of my OB/GYN who warned me I wouldn't be able to take my migraine medicine while pregnant. It took about 3 months of weekly visits to completely get rid of my migraines. Today, I have a headache maybe once a month or so. I wish I had tried acupuncture years ago. It has also helped a great deal with intermittent stress and anxiety.

On the other side of the coin, I had a killer virus a couple of months ago that I couldn't shake and hoped that the acupuncturist might be able to help. Nothing she did worked - it finally took a course of strong antibiotics to clear things up.
posted by jrichards at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have chronic pain in my sacroiliac joints due to ankylosing spondylitis (autoimmune arthritis). Back when I was first diagnosed, I tried quite a bit of acupuncture -- at least once a week for a year or so. I did get significant relief from it, but it was always short-lived: by the next day, the pain would be back again. At the time, I thought it was worth it, especially since I was in serious pain and the acupuncture didn't cost (it's great to know a doctor!)

In retrospect, I don't think it was helping much with the underlying problem, if at all. Diet (specifically the London AS Diet) and exercise (weight training, walking) have worked best for me.
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on March 28, 2011

Another failure here.

I saw a stellar acupuncturist twice/week for nearly a year, trying to deal with fatigue. The cause was unknown at the time; it later turned out to be related to autoimmune disease. Although the acupuncture seemed like it might be helping me feel a little better, I finally realized that it wasn't doing any more good than just lying down in a comfy room with quiet music. It didn't change the progress of the disease at all, and didn't provide any noticeable symptom relief. It consumed time, energy and money that could have been better spent. I'm glad I gave it a fair shot, though.
posted by Corvid at 4:56 PM on March 28, 2011

My wife is an acupuncturist working at a TCM clinic specializing in fertility treatments. She'd be the first to tell you that acupuncture is just one aspect of TCM and less significant than the herbal prescriptions and/or diet and exercise regimens that are part of almost any proper treatment.
Acupuncture can provide immediate relief of symptoms and aid/accelerate healing/improvement if applied along with other appropriate measures. For example, when I have a cold I get needles plus herbs. I've tried both separately at times just out of curiosity. It seemed to me that without acupuncture I'd have to wait longer for relief and without herbs the immediate relief from the acupuncture wouldn't last.
Similarly, after twisting my ankle pretty badly recently, it seemed to me that acupuncture was helping me with pain and stiffness. After acupuncture it was easier to move the ankle and carefully exercise it. But on the days when I only had acupuncture and didn't exercise my ankle it seemed to stiffen up again more quickly.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:09 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to figure out intermittent chronic hives for about 7 years now. During my next-to-last flare-up, I tried acupuncture. I went in for 4 visits and I totally loved it. The whole trans-like meditative state it sent me into did wonders for my mindset. However, it made my hives worse (within hours) and I called the whole thing off. I still want to try again though, maybe treating a different element. It seems like I remember the acupuncturist telling me she was trying to reduce my fire element or something along those lines.
posted by sugarbiscuit at 9:10 PM on March 28, 2011

I'm a confirmed sceptic of anything that is resistent to double-blind randomised trials.....

having said that from 14-21 I suffered from the most debiltating migraines, many of the drugs I took have now been withdrwan (ergotamine for instance). About 9 times a year I would lose days, I once knocked myself out by hitting my head of the bedroom wall because I simply couldn't take it anymore.

My OH bought me a gift for my 21st birthday, 6 sessions of acupuncture. From the third session I noticed a significant relief and after session 6 I was migraine free. Still am 25 years later.

The sceptic in me posits it was a weird coincidence that the end of my migraine cycle was coterminous with the sessions but honestly I don't even think I really believe that deep down.
posted by Wilder at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2011

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