What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It originated in China and is now practised throughout the world. Acupuncture is considered a safe therapy in the hands of a well-trained practitioner and as such your practitioner must be registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia.

Acupuncture commonly refers to the insertion of single-use, ultra-fine surgical stainless steel pins into acupuncture points, often with the addition of manual manipulation, heat and/or electrical stimulation. The goal of acupuncture is to establish a healthier state of body function and to increase your capacity to cope with stress. It does this by not only alleviating symptoms, but most importantly working towards addressing the root cause of your condition to facilitate a more sustained shift in health.

What factors are considered in your general physical examination?

TCM recognises you as a complex of physicality, mind and emotion. During your initial consultation, all aspects of your health are discussed. Details of your medical, surgical and family history and other relevant information such as exercise habits, eating habits and occupation are collected. A general physical examination is conducted and the tongue and wrist pulses are studied. The number and frequency of treatments you may require depends on several factors. These include the duration and intensity of your present disorder, your age, constitution, and individual circumstances such as lifestyle, stress levels and health goals, are also taken into account.


The goal of acupuncture is to establish a healthier state of body function and to increase your capacity to cope with stress.

It does this by not only alleviating symptoms, but most importantly working towards addressing the root cause of your condition to facilitate a more sustained shift in health.


The effectiveness of acupuncture is evidence-based

In placebo-controlled clinical trials acupuncture has demonstrated the Australian Government’s National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for 117 conditions (McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review. Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association. 2017). These include:

  • acute burns pain [1]

  • allergic rhinitis [2]

  • anxiety [3]

  • back pain [1]

  • back and pelvic pain during pregnancy [4]

  • chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting [5]

  • chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis [6]

  • cancer pain and fatigue [7]

  • depression [8]

  • headache [1]

  • insomnia [9]

  • knee osteoarthritis [10]

  • menopausal hot flushes [11]

  • migraine [12]

  • neck pain [13]

  • peri and postmenopausal sleep disturbance [14]

  • period pain [1]

  • post-traumatic stress disorder [15]

  • postoperative nausea and vomiting [16]

  • postoperative pain [1]

  • prostatitis pain and chronic pelvic pain syndrome [17]

  • shoulder pain (rotator cuff) [18]

  • stroke rehabilitation [19]

  • TMJ pain (jaw pain) [20]



  1. Schug SA, Palmer GM, Scott DA, Halliwell R, Trinca J. Acute pain management: scientific evidence, fourth edition, 2015. Med J Aust. 2016 May 2;204(8):315-7. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00133

  2. Seidman MD, Gurgel RK, Lin SY, Schwartz SR, Baroody FM, Bonner JR, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(1 Suppl):S1-43. || doi: 10.1177/0194599814561600

  3. Goyata SL, Avelino CC, Santos SV, Souza Junior DI, Gurgel MD, Terra FS. Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review. Rev Bras Enferm. 2016 Jun;69(3):602-9. || doi: 10.1590/0034-7167.2016690325i

  4. Close C, Sinclair M, Liddle SD, Madden E, McCullough JE, Hughes C. A systematic review investigating the effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for the management of low back and/or pelvic pain (LBPP) in pregnancy. J Adv Nurs. 2014 Aug;70(8):1702-16. || doi: 10.1111/jan.12360

  5. Garcia MK, McQuade J, Lee R, Haddad R, Spano M, Cohen L. Acupuncture for symptom management in cancer care: an update. Curr Oncol Rep. 2014 Dec;16(12):418. || doi: 10.1007/s11912-014-0418-9

  6. Scottish Incollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Management of Chronic Pain (SIGN publication no. 136). Scottish Incollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN); 2013.

  7. Zhang R, Lao L, Ren K, Berman BM. Mechanisms of acupuncture-electroacupuncture on persistent pain. Anesthesiology. 2014 Feb;120(2):482-503. || doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000000101

  8. Bosch P, van den Noort M, Staudte H, Lim S. Schizophrenia and Depression: A systematic Review of the Effectiveness and the Working Mechanisms Behind Acupuncture. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):281-91. || doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.04.004

  9. Zhao K. Acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:217-34. || doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-411545-3.00011-0

  10. Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, et al. Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:312. || doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-312

  11. Chiu HY, Pan CH, Shyu YK, Han BC, Tsai PS. Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women in natural menopause: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. 2015 Feb;22(2):234-44. || doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000260

  12. Da Silva AN. Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache. 2015 Mar;55(3):470-3. || doi: 10.1111/head.12525

  13. Trinh K, Graham N, Irnich D, Cameron ID, Forget M. Acupuncture for neck disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016(5):Cd004870. || doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004870.pub4

  14. Chiu HY, Hsieh YJ, Tsai PS. Acupuncture to Reduce Sleep Disturbances in Perimenopausal and Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Mar;127(3):507-15. || doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001268

  15. Engel CC, Cordova EH, Benedek DM, Liu X, Gore KL, Goertz C, et al. Randomized effectiveness trial of a brief course of acupuncture for post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Care. 2014 Dec;52(12 Suppl 5):S57-64. || doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000237

  16. Lee A, Chan SK, Fan LT. Stimulation of the wrist acupuncture point PC6 for preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015(11):Cd003281. || doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003281.pub4

  17. Qin Z, Wu J, Zhou J, Liu Z. Systematic Review of Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Mar;95(11):e3095. || doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000003095

  18. Hopman K KL, Lukersmith S, McColl AR, & Vine K. Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Rotator Cuff Syndrome in the Workplace. The University of New South Wales. 2013.

  19. Liu AJ, Li JH, Li HQ, Fu DL, Lu L, Bian ZX, et al. Electroacupuncture for Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Am J Chin Med. 2015;43(8):1541-66. || doi: 10.1142/S0192415X15500883

  20. Grillo CM, Canales Gde L, Wada RS, Alves MC, Barbosa CM, Berzin F, et al. Could Acupuncture Be Useful in the Treatment of Temporomandibular Dysfunction? J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2015 Aug;8(4):192-9. || doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2014.12.001