Can acupuncture help avoid surgery?

Undergoing surgery can be daunting, consuming time and involve a lengthy recovery process. A common motive for turning to acupuncture is to alleviate pain. Whether the pain is mild or debilitating, acupuncture is often sought out for relief. While many pain issues respond well to acupuncture, some may present greater challenges, potentially warranting surgical intervention. Nevertheless, with an appropriate treatment regimen, acupuncture might offer a pathway to reduce the need for surgery.

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture will reduce pain, no question. In fact, acupuncture is one of the best forms of medicine for pain management. In regards to reducing pain when surgery is recommended, it gets a little more complicated.

Acupuncture needles are strategically placed: in muscles to alleviate trigger points, alongside tendons to enhance blood flow, and near joints to alleviate inflammation. Regardless of the specific body area, acupuncture can activate neurotransmitters associated with pain perception.

These neurotransmitters release substances that effectively mitigate pain, regardless of its origin—from conditions like a bulging disc, a torn tendon, or muscle tension compressing a nerve. If you’re experiencing such discomfort, acupuncture can provide relief.

Limitations of acupuncture

Acupuncture cannot put a lumbar disc back into place, it cannot mend a completely torn tendon, and acupuncture cannot decrease bone-on-bone friction. However, acupuncture can manage the pain that comes with each condition.

For example, if you have osteoarthritis affecting the knee or hip, acupuncture can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with it. If you’re trying to avoid or prolong surgery as much as you can, this is what’s needed:

Correct treatment plan

The treatment approach resembles that of physical therapy. Initially, acupuncture sessions occur 2-3 times per week. Each session serves as a foundation for the subsequent one, gradually diminishing pain with each treatment.

Consistency is key. Initially, the effects of treatment might last for just a day. However, with continued sessions, pain relief extends over increasingly longer periods. Eventually, if the pain is sufficiently manageable, you might consider forgoing surgery.

Occasionally, the pain may fully dissipate, while other times it might persist at a lower intensity. Once the discomfort becomes more manageable, typically around a 2/10 on the pain scale, you can then assess your options. Many individuals opt for follow-up sessions as part of maintenance care, which further reduces the likelihood of surgery. Maintenance sessions can vary in frequency, ranging from monthly treatments to biannual appointments, depending on individual needs.


Considering avoiding surgery? Give acupuncture a chance. It’s a non-invasive therapy with minimal recovery time compared to surgical procedures. Even if surgery remains necessary despite acupuncture treatment, research indicates that acupuncture can alleviate post-surgical pain and decrease the need for pain medication.

For questions about your condition, call to schedule a free consultation today.

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