Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese Medicine, and is practiced in other eastern cultures, such as Japan and Korea. Read on to find out more about how it works and its use with many conditions including some types of arthritis.


What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points to stimulate nerves and muscles. These points are located along energy channels, called meridians.

The traditional foundation of acupuncture is based on the idea of Qi (chee) and the flow of energy through the body. This energy flow can become imbalanced, and acupuncture is a method of correcting this imbalance.

A scientific view of acupuncture suggests that acupuncture points are areas where nerves can be stimulated. This stimulation results in the release of neurotransmitters into the body, such as the bodies natural opiods and serotonin.

A powerful placebo affect may also be a factor in the effectiveness of acupuncture.


Acupuncture needles. 
Acupuncture Needles

In Australia most needles used for acupuncture are made from stainless steel and are pre-sterilised, single use, and disposable.

They are manufactured and packed in sterile conditions. 

They are covered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Good Manufacturing Practice legislation.

There are also other types of specialised needles that vary in shape and use.


Acupuncture for arthritis pain management.

Acupuncture can provide short term pain relief for some people with arthritis, however the results do vary.

There is some limited evidence that acupuncture can relieve pain, and improve function in people with osteoarthritis in the knees.

There is no evidence that acupuncture is effective for rheumatoid arthritis.


The World Health Organisation suggests acupuncture as a possible treatment for:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Acute rhinitis
  • Acute tonsillitis
  • Common cold
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Acute conjunctivitis
  • Cataracts (without complications)
  • Myopia
  • Central retinitis
  • Toothache
  • Pain after tooth extraction
  • Gingivitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Sciatica
  • Low back painacupuncture guide
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Oesophageal spasm
  • Hiccoughs
  • Gastroptosis
  • Gastritis
  • Gastric hyperacidity
  • Chronic duodenal ulcer
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Bacterial dysentery
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Paralytic ileus (intestinal obstruction)
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Facial paralysis
  • Paralysis after apoplectic fit
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Paralysis caused by poliomyelitis
  • Menieres syndrome
  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
  • Nocturnal enuresis
  • Intercostal neuralgia


Possible complications or adverse affects:

Complications associated with acupuncture are rare, and these are usually prevented by adequate training of the acupuncturist and care while performing acupuncture.

Also acupuncture is usually not performed on people who have bleeding disorders, cardiac pacemakers, who are pregnant, or people who are at risk of bacteraemia.

However there are some possible issues that may arise.

In very extreme cases adverse effects may include:

  • Cardiac trauma.
  • Endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart).
  • Hepatitis.
  • Pnuemothorax (lung disease where air is present in the pleural space).
  • Renal injury (injury to the kidneys).
  • Septicaemia.
  • Spinal cord injury.


Other possible complications:

  • In 3% of people bleeding may occur.
  • In 1% of people drowsiness may occur.
  • Perichondritis (infection of skin and tissue in the outer ear).
  • Peripheral nerve damage.
  • Retained needle.
  • Syncope (faintness or fainting).


Less serious effects may include:

  • Contact dermatitis.
  • Erythema (redness or irritation of the skin).
  • Local pain occurs in 1%.
  • Aggravation of the symptom or reason for acupuncture.



MyDr. 2009. Arthritis: Physical Therapies. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 19 April 12].

Virtual Medical Centre. 2010. Medical Acupuncture. [ONLINE] Available at: