Seeking pain relief through acupuncture increasingly popular, DC-area consumer group finds

Use of the ancient traditional medicine acupuncture in clinical settings is on the rise worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 40 states and D.C. have laws governing its use, and a D.C.-area-based consumers’ group finds most people who try it are satisfied with the results.

“What we concluded is, yeah, it’s not really certain whether or not it’s a placebo effect (or) it’s really doing something in terms of medically, but maybe you shouldn’t overthink it so much. If the results work, why not try it?,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook rankings show differences from practice to practice, but most are overwhelmingly positive.

“Which tracks with the data on this — that people who get acupuncture are overwhelmingly satisfied and happy they did it,” he said. “The ratings we get for acupuncture can compare quite favorably to what we get for physical therapists and physicians and others.”

You might be at risk of complications undergoing acupuncture if you have a bleeding disorder, have a pacemaker, or are pregnant, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website that states acupuncture is “used mainly to relieve discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions.” Those conditions include headaches, low back pain, neck pain, dental pain, menstrual cramps, labor pain, osteoarthritis and chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting.

Some insurance plans cover the cost of acupuncture; some don’t. Brasler said it can be cheaper in group settings.

Also noting the cost effectiveness of group acupuncture, a study published by the National Institutes of Health found group acupuncture to be no less effective than individual acupuncture “for treating cancer pain and was superior in many health outcomes.”

You can see Checkbook’s assessments of various acupuncture-related questions on the group’s website.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings and price comparisons for 462 area acupuncturists for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has for more than 40 years been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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