Acupuncture is a holistic treatment that involves trained practitioners inserting fine needles into your skin. This is done to stimulate specific points and reactions within your body.
It’s used as an alternative treatment for a number of different conditions, including psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that results in red, inflamed, and scaly patches on your skin.
Early research on acupuncture for psoriasis has suggested that it can be an effective treatment for managing your symptoms and flares.
Acupuncture may help treat psoriasis in several different ways. It’s an effective stress reliever — and stress is a common trigger of psoriasis flares. It can also help relieve pain, especially in cases of psoriatic arthritis.
More research is needed in this area. But some anecdotal evidence does suggest that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for psoriasis.
This includes potentially having the ability to reduce symptoms or lead to psoriasis remission.
Research on the topic includes the following:
- A 2016 overview of literature claimed that acupuncture treatment for psoriasis could be effective with minimal side effects.
- A 2017 review of 13 randomized trials states that acupuncture-adjacent treatments, such as acupressure, could be considered as a complementary therapy for treatment of psoriasis and encouraged additional research. Acupressure is a highly satisfactory complementary therapy that can demonstrate a clinically significant decrease in self-rated pain and anxiety scores. This may be helpful for reducing psoriasis triggers like stress.
- A 2004 study of 80 participants saw a 91.3 percent effectiveness rate in alleviating psoriasis symptoms after just five acupuncture sessions.
older studyfrom 1992 found that half of all patients in the study (30 out of 61) had complete or near-complete clearance of lesions after about nine acupuncture sessions. Fourteen participants saw clearance in two-thirds of the lesions.
During an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist will ask about your pain and symptoms and examine any problem areas.
Acupuncture needles are sterile and as thin as a strand of hair.
They’ll be inserted into your skin at different depths, depending on the technique your provider is using. This depth can range from 1 to 2 inches deep.
Once all the needles have been inserted, they’ll remain in your skin for up to 20 minutes. You may feel a deep heaviness or numbness, which means the treatment is working.
Your acupuncturist may surround the visible psoriasis flare with needles, which is done to attempt to bring more chi (energy) to the area and balance your immune system. This is called “surrounding the dragon.”
In other cases, they’ll place the needles at different points on your body depending where the lesions are. For example, if lesions are on your head, the acupuncturist would treat the Ying Xiang (near the nose) and Su Liao (tip of the nose) points.
Strong anecdotal evidence and some research supports the idea of acupuncture being an effective treatment for psoriasis.
But it may not help everyone.
Some people do experience mild soreness during and after an acupuncture treatment, though this should resolve quickly.
Acupuncture has few side effects, as long as it’s practiced in a clean environment with sterile needles. Nonsterilized needles can result in infections.
Most side effects noted in research on acupuncture are due to a lack of proper technique.
That’s why it’s crucial to go to an experienced, properly trained provider. A substandard provider may cause additional pain. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine lists board certified acupuncture providers.
The biggest downside is that regular treatment is often required, at least to get flares under control. This can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if your insurance won’t cover it.
For people with bleeding disorders, acupuncture could greatly increase the chance of bleeding or bruising.
And if you have a pacemaker, you should check with your doctor before having acupuncture. Treatment that involves adding electric currents to the acupuncture needles could interfere with pacemakers.
In very rare cases, organ injury is possible if the needles are pushed too deeply into the area above them. Pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, may occur in the case of an injured lung.
This is the most common organ injury from acupuncture. Seek immediate emergency attention if you experience severe pain, struggle to breathe, cough up blood, or have any other new, severe symptoms following treatment.
You should also let your provider know if you’re taking blood thinners.
To get psoriasis flares under control, some acupuncturists recommend getting treatment once per week for a total of four to eight sessions, depending on your progress.
When you go for your acupuncture appointment, wear loose clothing. Some of it may need to be adjusted or removed during your treatment.
It’s advised that you shouldn’t to wear perfume or strong-smelling deodorant so you won’t affect anyone else who may have chemical sensitivities.
You should also try to avoid scheduling your appointment before or after something stressful.
It’s important to eat an hour or so before you go, as acupuncture can otherwise leave you feeling low on energy and a little light-headed. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before the appointment.
Since psoriasis sometimes becomes resistant to medications used in the long term, acupuncture could be a good alternative option to try.
You could see results in as soon as 1 to 4 weeks, especially if you go for treatment regularly. It’s also unlikely to interfere with any of the treatments you’ve already started, making it a low-risk opportunity for treatment.
Keep your healthcare provider informed of any acupuncture or other complementary treatments you want to try.