AIDS InfoNet Logo
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.
This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Site of the Week
November 2003

The Health Leader Award 2006
The Health Leader Award 2006

The HOPE Reward

Med411.com Medical Award

HealthAtoZ.com Featured Site Award

BuscaSalud.com

IBS Tales Hope Award

HealingWell.com Editor's Choice Award

Listed in Listed in Treasures of the Internet


AIDS InfoNet Logo.  The AIDS InfoNet - Reliable, Up-to-Date AIDS Treatment Information
International Association of Providers of AIDS Care
Reviewed May 19, 2014

Fact Sheet 703

Chinese Acupuncture


WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
WHY DO PEOPLE WITH HIV USE ACUPUNCTURE?
HOW IS ACUPUNCTURE USED?
WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS?
HOW DO WE KNOW IT WORKS?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
 


WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a healing technique used in traditional Chinese medicine. Very thin needles are used to stimulate specific points in the body. These points lie on energy pathways called “meridians.” Acupuncture treatments are designed to improve the flow and balance of energy along these meridians.

Traditional Chinese medicine is at least 2,500 years old. It views the human body as a system of energy flows. When these flows are balanced, the body is healthy. Practitioners take their patients’ pulses and examine their tongue to diagnose energy imbalances. In Chinese medicine, pulses can be taken at three positions on each wrist, and at three depths at each position.

Illness is not defined by symptoms or the name of a disease like “HIV infection.” Instead, a practitioner of Chinese medicine will talk about energy imbalances. The language can sound very strange, like “yin deficiency” or “liver heat rising.” The Chinese words yin and yang refer to opposing energies that should be in balance, and Qi (pronounced “chee”) can be roughly translated as energy or life force.

In traditional Chinese medicine, there are many ways to improve the balance of the body’s energy flows. The most common techniques used in the western world are exercise techniques such as Qigong or Tai Chi, or acupuncture or herbalism. Fact Sheet 704 has more information on Chinese herbalism.

Many practitioners of Chinese medicine specialize in either acupuncture or herbalism. Very few use both methods.

 


WHY DO PEOPLE WITH HIV USE ACUPUNCTURE?

Because acupuncture deals with energy balance, there are not specific acupuncture points used to treat HIV. Instead, your acupuncturist will use your pulses and will probably look at your tongue to find out how your energy flows are out of balance.

Acupuncture does not cure HIV infection. Many people, however, believe that it has helped them improve their overall energy, or deal with the side effects of antiretroviral medications (ARVs). Some people have used acupuncture to reduce the upset stomach or diarrhea caused by their medications. Other people find that it helps ease the pain caused by neuropathy (See Fact Sheet 555 for more information on neuropathy).



 HOW IS ACUPUNCTURE USED?

Based on your energy imbalances, your acupuncturist will select acupuncture points to stimulate. You will lie on a table, either on your stomach or on your back. Needles will be inserted at the selected points. You may feel a little pain, tingling or numbness as the needles are inserted. The needles are left in place for up to 30 or 45 minutes, depending on what the acupuncture is intended to accomplish. During that time, many people fall asleep.

You might receive additional treatments during acupuncture to increase the flow of energy:

  • The needles might be stimulated with a very mild electric current (electroacupuncture)
  • Moxa is soft material prepared from dried mugwort, an herb. Moxa may be put on the top end of acupuncture needles or (rarely) right on the skin. Moxa is burned to provide penetrating heat. This is called moxibustion.
  • Round glass cups can be used to create suction over specific points (cupping). The suction stimulates the flow of energy. If the cups are left on for a long time they can leave a red mark.

Some practitioners use small beads or tiny needles held in place with adhesive to keep pressure on an acupuncture point for a few days.

 


 WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS?

Some people feel slight pain, numbness or tingling when acupuncture needles are inserted. Be certain that the acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable needles. In rare cases, people will feel dizzy or nauseated during acupuncture. There may be a drop of blood when a needle is removed. Acupuncture has far fewer side effects than most western medicines.

You should not go for an acupuncture treatment if you have had any alcoholic beverage within an hour, or if you are using any recreational drugs.

Be sure your acupuncturist knows if you are pregnant. Some acupuncture points should not be stimulated during pregnancy.

 


 HOW DO WE KNOW IT WORKS?

Research on acupuncture shows that it is effective in treating some kinds of pain and nausea. This led the National Institutes of Health in 1997 to issue a statement supporting the value of acupuncture for certain conditions. The World Health Organization lists over 40 conditions that may be helped by acupuncture.

A recent study on acupuncture to relieve the pain of neuropathy did not show any benefits. However, the study design has been criticized for using the same acupuncture points for everyone in the study, and for using fake acupuncture points for comparison. Many people with neuropathy believe that acupuncture has helped them.

 


 FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, see the web site of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/

 



 


Back to Fact Sheet Categories



New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center International Association of Providers of AIDS Care

 

The AIDS InfoNet is a project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center,
and the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.
webmaster@aidsinfonet.org

 

United States National Library of Medicine

Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine



Search Our Site
Newest Fact Sheets
Print This Fact Sheet
You can print this fact sheet on a single page in Microsoft Word (.doc) format or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. Click on the links below to open the document in your browser and then print it.
 Adobe Acrobat PDF
 Microsoft Word

You can print directly from your browser using the link below. The printout will probably go onto a second page.
 Print Version (Web)

Monthly E-mail Updates

The InfoNet updates its Fact Sheets frequently. A listing of each month's changes is posted to several e-mail lists.

If you would like to receive this monthly update by personal e-mail, please click on the SUBMIT button.

SUBMIT