Muscle and joint pain is very common amongst Australians, affecting one in three people. You may have the pain from an injury sustained during exercise, from overuse, poor posture or it could be from a condition such as arthritis. You may have gotten it in the past few days or have had it for many years. The pain may be sharp, dull, aching, radiating, tingling or numb. Combined with Western anatomical and physiology knowledge, Chinese medicine can find the cause and treat the root of the condition. It can also relieve the pain and decrease the healing time of the injury.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy or “qi.” This technique has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including muscle and joint pain.

Acupuncture for Muscle and Joint Pain: What the Studies Say

Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture for muscle and joint pain. A review of 29 randomised controlled trials found that acupuncture was more effective than placebo or no treatment for relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain (source:

Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared acupuncture to standard care (medication and physical therapy) for people with chronic knee pain. The study found that acupuncture was more effective than standard care for reducing pain and improving function (source:

Acupuncture may also be effective for relieving pain associated with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (source:, neck pain (source:, and shoulder pain (source:

How Does Acupuncture Work for Pain Relief?

The mechanism by which acupuncture relieves pain is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve several factors. One theory is that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Acupuncture may also activate the body’s immune and nervous systems to promote healing and reduce inflammation. Chinese herbal medicine and herbal plasters also act in a similar way.

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Session

If you are considering acupuncture for muscle and joint pain, here’s what you can expect during a typical session:

  1. The acupuncturist will examine your medical history and discuss your symptoms.
  2. The acupuncturist will insert thin needles into specific points on your body, which may be located near the site of your pain or on other parts of your body.
  3. You may feel a mild sensation or tingling at the site of the needle insertion, but acupuncture is generally not painful.
  4. You will typically lie still for about 20 minutes with the needles in place.
  5. After the session, you may feel relaxed or energised, and you may notice some improvement in your pain and other symptoms.

Commonly treated conditions include:

  • lower back pain e.g. disc prolapse, sciatica
  • jaw pain e.g. temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • neck pain and stiff neck e.g. cervical spondylosis
  • shoulder pain e.g. frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injuries
  • elbow pain e.g. tennis/golfers elbow
  • wrist pain e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome
  • knee pain e.g. osteoarthritis, ligament injuries
  • ankle pain e.g. ankle sprain
  • foot pain e.g. plantar fasciitis
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis

Acupuncture may be a safe and effective alternative therapy for relieving muscle and joint pain and many people have reported significant pain relief and improved function after acupuncture treatments. If you are considering acupuncture to help you with your muscle and joint pain, it’s important to work with a qualified practitioner, such as those at Health in Flow Chinese Medicine, based in Melbourne CBD, who can create an individualised treatment plan for you.

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