Acupuncture is a natural, drug-free approach to pain relief and overall health. It can help ease a variety of ailments from chronic back and neck pain to migraines, tension headaches and knee pain.

Acupuncturists often insert needles into points called meridians, which are believed to link the body’s internal organs and pathways of energy. They believe the needles unblock obstructions that disrupt the flow of qi or life force, and promote a healthy balance of the meridians.

Improves Stress Levels

A 2011 study published in Medicine found that acupuncture reduces stress hormone levels and increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which promotes relaxation. It also helps increase melatonin, which promotes sleep.

Studies have also shown that acupuncture can help relieve headaches, and may be helpful in relieving joint pain from osteoarthritis or post-operative pain. It’s also been found to relieve nausea and vomiting following surgery or chemotherapy treatments.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Acupuncture is sometimes more effective at lowering blood pressure than medication. It’s especially beneficial for people with high blood pressure who haven’t responded to or don’t want to take medications.

Improves Digestive Function

Acupuncture can help improve digestion, particularly in patients with stomach ulcers. It can stimulate gastric peristalsis, which is the wavelike movement of food through the digestive tract. It can also prevent gastrointestinal spasms and inflammation, which can cause symptoms of heartburn.

In some cases, acupuncture can be used to manage autoimmune conditions like lupus, Hashimoto’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It can trigger immune-suppressors, minimize inflammation and activate cell proliferation to control autoimmune responses, which can reduce flare-ups.

Better Sleep

Acupuncture has been found to improve insomnia and other sleep disorders, which can affect your quality of life. In one study, women who received acupuncture experienced a significant improvement in their sleep quality.

It also boosts endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and can be used as a stand-alone treatment. It’s also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, as well as enhance mood and happiness.

Improves Fertility

Acupuncturists may use acupuncture to help a woman become pregnant, or to support her pregnancy once she conceives. It can also boost the body’s ability to produce reproductive hormones, which can promote a healthier pregnancy.

If you’re interested in trying acupuncture for yourself, talk to your doctor first. They’ll review your medical history and symptoms to determine whether it’s safe for you to receive treatment.

Acupuncture is considered safe as long as you receive it from an acupuncturist who uses sterile, single-use needles. There is a risk of infection when needles are not sterilized, but this is rare.