Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023

Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves inserting small, thin needles into the skin in an attempt to provide pain relief, reduce stress, and other health benefits.1,2

The theory behind the practice of acupuncture centers around balancing the flow of energy in the body. This energy is called chi (pronounced chee) by those who practice acupuncture. Practitioners believe that chi flows through pathways in the body called meridians. The needles placed during acupuncture are thought to help re-balance chi to provide pain relief and other health benefits.1,2

The points where the needles are placed are often places where muscles, nerves, and connective tissue can be stimulated, according to practitioners of Western medicine. This stimulation may be what provides relief.1,2

Common reasons people may seek acupuncture

Conditions acupuncture may help relieve include:1,2

  • Endometriosis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Dental pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Arthritis
  • Generalized pain
  • Specific pain, such as lower back or neck pain
  • Nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy or surgery
  • General stress

How acupuncture may help for endometriosis

There is limited research on how acupuncture may relieve endometriosis symptoms. However, several studies have suggested it may reduce endometriosis-related pain and provide other benefits to those who try it.3,4

The reason for this relief may come from acupuncture's ability to possibly:3,4

  • Regulate hormones
  • Increase blood flow
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Impact the immune system
  • Affect the body's pain response system

There are some case studies that suggest acupuncture may be helpful for fertility for those with endometriosis. However, much more research is needed to better understand these mechanisms. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of acupuncture.5

What to expect during an acupuncture session

Acupuncture sessions generally last 30 to 60 minutes. Roughly 5 to 20 needles are usually placed. In most cases, needle insertion causes little to no pain or discomfort since the needles are small and very thin. Your practitioner may manipulate the needles once they are placed. Some types of acupuncture involve applying mild electrical pulses or heat to the needles. Your practitioner will let you know if these applications will take place during your session.1

The needles are strategically placed based on what you are seeking relief for. For example, a person receiving acupuncture for endometriosis-related pelvic pain may have a majority of needles placed at or around their pelvis and abdomen. Ask your practitioner where you should expect the needles to be placed during your session.1

Depending on needle placement, it may be necessary to undress. Once the needles are placed, they usually stay in place for up to 20 minutes before they are removed. Each person's response to acupuncture varies. Some feel relaxed right away, while others feel energized afterward.1

Sessions may take place anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week to once a month. It may take time to feel the effects of acupuncture. Some people may experience no change at all.1

Things to note about acupuncture

Acupuncture should not replace traditional treatment options. However, it can be used along with other prescribed therapies to possibly provide further relief.

If you are considering trying acupuncture, talk with your doctor. They can help you decide if it is right for you and recommend reputable practitioners in your area. Acupuncture is not for everyone. People who are pregnant, have bleeding disorders, or have pacemakers may not be able to undergo acupuncture.1,2

It is also important to research acupuncturists before undergoing a session. Some communities require acupuncturists to have certain training and certifications. Prices for acupuncture may also vary depending on where you live. Friends, family, and doctors may be able to provide you with suggestions on safe, reliable, and trained acupuncturists in your area.

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