Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, sickness occurs when the flow of qi, or life energy, is disrupted or blocked in the body; acupuncture brings about healing by restoring its flow. Western physicians aren’t sure how acupuncture works, but think it may have something to do with the way it stimulates the nervous system.

Despite this uncertainty, acupuncture has been found to have numerous health benefits. The World Health Organization has named 28 conditions that can, according to scientific research, benefit from acupuncture treatments, and many more that can probably benefit, even though research into acupuncture’s benefits for these conditions is still incomplete. According to the FDA, acupuncture is a standard, evidence-based medical practice.

What can acupuncture do for your health? It’s been used to treat chronic pain, relieve symptoms associated with cancer treatment, heal addictions, soothe anxiety and more.

Chronic Pain Treatment

One of the most well-known benefits of acupuncture is its ability to treat chronic pain. Evidence suggests the treatment stimulates the body into producing natural opioids that bring relief for chronic pain conditions. Its pain-relief properties are so powerful that the U.S. Air Force began using acupuncture to treat pain related to battlefield injuries and surgery in 2009.

People suffering from lower back pain have been found to experience up to a 15 percent reduction in pain when they have acupressure, a similar treatment in which acupuncture points are stimulated with pressure instead of with needles. Multiple studies have shown acupuncture can prevent and treat both tension headaches and migraine headaches.

Addiction Treatment

Lincoln Hospital in New York City began using acupuncture to treat heroin addicts in 1974, after learning of the work of a Chinese neurosurgeon in that area. The program worked so well that soon Lincoln Hospital was administering 100 acupuncture detox treatments a day as part of its addiction treatment protocol. Now, more than 2,000 addiction rehab facilities nationwide use acupuncture to help recovering addicts heal from their substance abuse.

Strengthened Immunity

Various studies of acupuncture’s effects on cancer patients have found the treatment boosts immune function. Of course, you don’t need to have cancer to benefit from the immune-boosting properties of acupuncture. This treatment is excellent for anyone struggling with lowered immunity and trying to fight off infection.

Depression and Anxiety Treatment

Acupuncture has been successfully used to increase the efficacy of a number of Western treatments, including depression and anxiety. One study from China found acupuncture treatments increased the effectiveness of fluoxetine, the antidepressant marketed as Prozac, in patients being treated for depression and anxiety, so that those patients could experience the same symptom relief with a lower-than-normal dose of the medication. Acupuncture also helped ease the unpleasant side effects of the drug, notably decreased libido, weight gain and nausea.

Relief of Cancer Treatment Symptoms

Patients going through cancer treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy have reported significant improvements in treatment-related symptoms by using acupuncture. Patients receiving radiation therapy of the head and neck report significantly decreased dry-mouth symptoms after acupuncture. They also report far less post-surgical and cancer- or cancer-treatment-related pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Acupuncture has also been found to ease nausea in post-surgical patients, too.

Weight Loss Benefits

Korean researchers have found regular acupuncture treatments may help to promote weight loss. In fact, according to their research, the weight loss benefits of acupuncture are greater than those of medication or lifestyle changes. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat properly and exercise to maintain a healthy weight, but using acupuncture on a regular basis could strengthen your efforts.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that has been found to have broad applications for modern medicine. While many people think of it as an alternative treatment, it has actually been declared a standard medical practice by the FDA and is duly regulated. If you suffer from chronic pain, depression or anxiety, nausea and vomiting, headaches, substance abuse or other health problems, consider making acupuncture a part of your treatment plan.