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Eczema is a common skin condition that causes patches of dry, itchy skin and a red rash on different parts of your body. Eczema symptoms can be triggered by your body’s natural immune response to certain proteins. Both home remedies and prescription treatment plans may be part of managing eczema symptoms.

In recent years, acupuncture has gotten some attention as a possible way to treat symptoms of eczema, particularly the symptom of itching.

Let’s take a look at what we know about how acupuncture may help eczema and who can safely try the treatment.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that’s been used for over 2,500 years.

Acupuncture involves a licensed provider inserting very small, thin needles into pressure points on your body. These pressure points are believed to activate your central nervous system to help treat a wide variety of health conditions.

Acupuncture is mostly used in the US as a treatment for pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have concluded based on published research that acupuncture is a valuable treatment for:

  • arthritis
  • lower back pain
  • headache

Whether acupuncture can provide valuable treatment for other types of conditions is less established, and the evidence about using it to treat skin conditions is mostly anecdotal. More research is needed.

Acupuncture does appear to help some people treat their eczema symptoms. The success of the treatment may vary depending on what causes your eczema to flare up.

If your eczema is related to dietary, seasonal, or environmental allergies, acupuncture may be able to help. There’s some evidence from 2012 that acupuncture can help treat allergy symptoms, though how it works is not yet well understood.

This small study published in 2012 showed that acupuncture lowered the intensity of eczema-related itching better than placebo and no treatment. The study suggested that part of the reason acupuncture reduced itch was that it provided a distraction from the itching sensation.

However, there’s not a lot of evidence that acupuncture can help relieve other symptoms of eczema, such as redness or dry patches of skin. As a 2015 review of studies noted, no large-scale studies prove that acupuncture is an effective way of managing other eczema symptoms or that it can decrease eczema symptoms with repeated treatments over time.

People who believe acupuncture works to treat eczema typically subscribe to the idea that the treatment can help control your immune system’s response to your eczema triggers. These individuals report having weekly appointments with a trained and licensed acupuncturist and gradually reducing frequency to “tune-up” biweekly appointments.

The pressure points that an acupuncturist would focus on to treat eczema might depend on where flares tend to happen. It might also depend on other health conditions present.

Only a licensed professional can give you an accurate assessment of how or if acupuncture can be used to treat your eczema symptoms.

A 2020 review of eight trials studying acupuncture for eczema did not find any evidence of side effects. That doesn’t mean everyone should try it or that it’ll work for everyone, but rather, that most people who try acupuncture for eczema tolerate it well and don’t experience negative side effects after the treatment.

Even if it works to manage some symptoms, acupuncture is not a cure for eczema.

If it works well for you, it can be a tool in your treatment plan toolkit, along with:

  • topical creams
  • mild steroid creams
  • oatmeal baths
  • avoiding triggers

Home remedies for eczema along with prescription topical or oral medication from your dermatologist might be required if you have severe symptoms.

Many individuals who live with eczema are 2 years old or younger. Infants and children who have eczema may see their symptoms decrease as they get older, with or without treatments like acupuncture. Not every acupuncture provider will use acupuncture on children, according to the National Eczema Association.

Advantages of acupuncture as a treatment for eczema

  • It can be used along with other home remedies and prescription medications.
  • There is very little, if any, risk of side effects.
  • Acupuncture doesn’t introduce any chemicals into your body.

Disadvantages of acupuncture as a treatment for eczema

  • There’s little evidence for the treatment, so you probably won’t have an idea if it works for you unless you give it a try.
  • It’s only sometimes covered by insurance. Without insurance, the cost of appointments can add up fast. If you have insurance, contact your insurance company to ask for details about your plan.
  • Acupuncture for children is safe and effective, but it might be more difficult to find a licensed acupuncturist who specializes in pediatric treatments. Infants and toddlers who have eczema may not be able to get the treatment.
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There’s reason to believe acupuncture might work to manage symptoms of itching for some people with eczema.

Whether it works for you may depend on factors such as:

  • how old you are
  • what triggers your eczema
  • which other treatments you’re using

Your dermatologist might have some additional insight about acupuncture and other holistic remedies that might work to manage your eczema.

To find a nationally board certified and licensed acupuncturist, visit the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s practitioner directory.