How Acupuncture Can Help You Manage Pain, Avoid Injury, and Train Smarter

Draft a list of “things that scare the crap out of people,” and we’ll safely guess that needles are somewhere in the top ten, sandwiched between “encountering spiders” and “meeting the parents.” Yet acupuncture enjoys persistent and widespread appeal: More than 14 million people in the U.S.

Acupuncture is part of the ever-growing “alternative” medicine industry, which is estimated to be worth an astounding $197 billion by 2025. And as with any wellness trend with this much money behind it, ritzy boutique-style facilities are now racing one another to open their doors in a storefront near you.

Why would I ever do this?

Acupuncture is the insertion of super-thin needles—between 0.12 mm and 0.35 mm—into strategic areas around the body called acupuncture points. Depending on where these needles are inserted, experts say, you can treat a number of different conditions and diseases. Research published in the Journal of Pain found that acupuncture can treat chronic pain, including back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as conditions like chronic headaches and osteoarthritis. Randomized clinical trials have found that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for cancer-related pain, too.

Acupuncture can be also an athlete’s best friend. “It’s a natural partner for faster recovery, and many athletes use acupuncture to maintain top-performance shape,” says Shari Auth, DACM, co-founder of WTHN. “It can help improve flexibility, range of motion, and strength, as well as release sore or tight muscles and reduce inflammation.”

Does it Hurt?

Good news for needle-phobes: you needn’t worry about developing a sudden case of uncontrollable, expletive-laden screeches. Even the most sensitive patients won’t be able to feel much of anything once a needle is inserted.

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