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MENSTRUAL HEALTH

Let’s Talk Acupuncture for Women’s Health

There’s a reason it’s the most popular traditional medicine.

Let’s Talk Acupuncture for Women’s Health

If you haven’t tried acupuncture yet, it might be time to start. 

Acupuncture, a process in which nano-thin needles are inserted through the skin at strategic points in the body, is a cornerstone of TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine—and the most widely used traditional medical practice around the globe.

An NIH study found that more than half of acupuncture users in the United States are female—and we’re not surprised. More and more women have been using this ancient therapy to treat ailments, combat illness, and improve overall wellness. In fact, 93% of surveyed acupuncturists revealed that they treat women’s health issues regularly throughout the year. 

Intrigued? We were, too. We did a poke around on acupuncture, so you wouldn’t have to. Editor’s note: this pun was intended. 


How does acupuncture work? 

Dating back to 200 BCE, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a “complete medical system that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses” for thousands of years. TCM’s major principle revolves around balancing yin and yang in the body to maintain health; in order to do so, the qi, or flow of life force energy in the body, must be stabilized.

TCM asserts that qi moves through several meridians, or energetic pathways in the body.  So, if we think of your body as a network of roads, ideal health is a state in which qi can flow freely through those roads with limited “traffic.” 

Acupuncture is one of the major ways practitioners unlock that free-flowing goodness. By gently inserting the needles at over 360 points along meridians, acupuncturists rebalance the body’s qi—restoring health, reducing inflammation, and promoting well-being. 

Theories from neuroscientists at Harvard University and the State University of Ecatepec Valley suggest that acupuncture “stimulates sensory nerves in the skin and muscles” and “activates signaling pathways.” Others believe the therapy switches on relaxation responses in the nervous system. Beyond this, the exact science behind acupuncture is not 100% clear—but many women swear by it, particularly when it comes to pain relief.


But does acupuncture actually work?

Acupuncture has been found to be wildly effective for some conditions, and insignificant for others. There’s still a few things we don’t know—but while experts may not fully understand why acupuncture has the effects it does, the data can’t be ignored. 

Per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a meta-analysis of 20 studies found that the majority of 7,000 participants with “painful conditions'' experienced relief and benefits from acupuncture, up to twelve months after the treatment. Additional studies found that this process could be used to treat urinary incontinence in women, improve “quality of life” for patients with asthma, and “alleviate the intensity” of pain associated with cancer. 

In short? There’s no definitive answer for if acupuncture works for everything and everyone. But if you’re struggling with chronic pain or other conditions, and on the hunt for an alternative treatment option, it might be worth a try. 

How can acupuncture be used for women’s health needs? 

Acupuncture has been suggested as a complementary therapy for many health concerns specific to women’s reproductive and endocrine systems. While it’s not widely recommended as the only treatment for ailments, it’s often used in an integrative approach along with other options determined by a primary care physician. 

So, what can it do? We already know acupuncture kicks butt when it comes to pain relief—take that, cramps!—so here are a few more conditions practitioners have treated in women: 

  • Migraines and other PMS symptoms
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Reduced fertility and/or reproductive function
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hot flashes

Some women’s health clinics even offer acupuncture during IUD insertion and removal.  Impressed? So were we. 

How would I pay for acupuncture?  

Some health insurance plans provide partial coverage for acupuncture treatments, especially when they’re deemed medically necessary. The best way to determine whether you’re covered is to contact your insurance provider directly—or if you’ve already picked out an acupuncturist, ask them if they take your insurance and what costs you may need to cover out of pocket. 

If coverage isn’t an option for you, many wellness centers and clinics offer low-cost treatments, community therapies, or even payment plans. 

How do I know if acupuncture is right for me? 

We can’t exactly answer this one for you. Like all forms of medicine, acupuncture affects everyone’s body differently, and you should discuss any proposed changes to your health routine with your trusted PCP first. Looking to do some more research beforehand? We got you. 

There’s plenty of info out there. Find an online community (Reddit’s a personal fave), read through testimonials, or ask around to see if anyone in your circles has an acupuncture experience they’d like to share. For more specific and technical questions, connect with a licensed acupuncturist. Visit your insurance provider’s online portal, check the licensing board in your state, or find a practitioner on the NCCAOM website. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to answer your questions—and you may be one step closer to finding relief.

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