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Can Acupuncture Actually Lead to Weight Loss?

For many dieters, the thought of stepping on the scale to monitor weight loss progress puts them on proverbial pins and needles.

One alternative medical practice that’s recently been linked to weight loss involves the literal ones.

Acupuncture has been around in some forms for thousands of years, with its most accepted roots coming as a component of traditional Chinese medicine. The goal of acupuncture is to manage pain – particularly headaches, along with neck, back, and knee issues – by stimulating specific points on the body with the insertion of tiny, thin needles into the skin.

Stimulating nerves and muscles to relieve pain sounds reasonable enough, and some recent studies indicate that acupuncture can help ease some chronic pain despite the practice’s occasional smoke-and-mirrors reputation. But can acupuncture help people lose weight?

As with most all-encompassing methods that promise weight loss, the answer is no – by itself, at least. The working theory behind acupuncture for weight loss is that it activates the body’s nervous system and gives natural metabolism a boost by helping regulate digestion, insulin, and hormones.

Stimulating certain trigger points in the body can essentially flip the switch on various internal systems, which can then rev up the body’s energy flow and the ability to burn fat. That jolt can also lower stress and reduce appetite, two other factors that, if reversed, may lead to weight gain.

Research on acupuncture for weight loss is fairly inconclusive, but there’s reason to believe that it can be effective in helping shed pounds as long as it’s used in conjunction with proper exercise, diet, and a generally healthy lifestyle. A 2018 review of 27 clinical trials involving more than 2,200 patients found that while acupuncture alone wasn’t the be-all and end-all to weight loss, it worked as a complement to other lifestyle modifications, particularly among those who were overweight but not obese.

At Structure House, we don’t believe that there’s one easy solution to weight loss. We integrate the science and art of nutrition, fitness, medicine, and psychology into providing the skills necessary for sustainable healthy living.

Weight loss is about creating positive habits that you can use for the rest of your life. Our goal isn’t for you to magically lose 30 pounds during your time with us. It’s about enabling all our participants to learn strategies that will help them carry the healthy changes made at Structure House with them for many years to come. Learn more about our approach and weight loss programs.

About Nancy Freeman, RN, BSN, CDE

Nancy joined the Structure House staff in 1986 and is currently working part-time following her retirement. She conducts medical evaluations of participants to determine an appropriate exercise level and the need for medical follow up. Additionally, she provides counseling for medical issues and helps to arrange further medical treatment that may be necessary. She works closely with the fitness staff to ensure the appropriate exercise environment. In her efforts in the medical area, she has a close working relationship with the Duke University Medical Center including consulting Duke Physicians at Structure House.

Nancy earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Certified Diabetes Educator by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Education. Her previous experience is primarily in community health nursing working for several years with the Durham County Health Department.

View all posts by Nancy Freeman, RN, BSN, CDE