Acupuncture and Psoriasis: Unlocking Alternative Treatment Paths

April 15, 2024

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition causing skin inflammation and plaque buildup affecting over 100 million individuals globally. Acupuncture, a technique from traditional Chinese medicine, is sometimes used as an complementary treatment to help relieve psoriasis symptoms.

Overview of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common chronic skin disorder. Key features include:

  • Thickened, red, scaly plaques on the skin
  • Itching, pain, cracking, or bleeding in affected areas
  • Potential negative emotional impact and social stigma

Main types of psoriasis are:

  • Plaque psoriasis – Most common form, causes distinct silvery-white plaques
  • Guttate psoriasis – Small, drop-like lesions, often triggered by infections
  • Pustular psoriasis – Rare form with white pus-filled blisters
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis – Severe inflammatory form causing widespread redness/peeling

While not contagious or fatal, psoriasis can significantly reduce one’s quality of life without proper management.

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How Acupuncture May Help Psoriasis

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific body points to modulate energy flow. In psoriasis, proposed benefits include:

  • Reducing inflammation by altering immune cell behavior
  • Improving blood circulation to clear toxins
  • Activating natural pain relief pathways
  • Lowering stress levels to prevent flares
  • Restoring skin/body energy balance

Small studies show acupuncture may reduce psoriasis severity, but larger trials are still needed. It likely works best as an adjunct to mainstream treatments.

Evidence for Using Acupuncture in Psoriasis

Limited higher-quality research exists studying acupuncture for psoriasis:

  • A 2013 analysis of 4 small RCTs concluded “current clinical evidence is insufficient to determine the efficacy of acupuncture”
  • A 2017 Chinese review found acupuncture used alongside medications can enhance effectiveness
  • A 2021 systematic review suggested existing studies are positive but poor quality overall

Takeaways are acupuncture may offer some symptom relief, but data remains preliminary. It does appear safe with a low side effect profile.

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What to Expect with Acupuncture Treatment

If pursuing acupuncture for psoriasis, typical steps include:

  • An initial Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluation of energy imbalances
  • Sterile, disposable needles inserted into chosen points on the skin
  • Points selected based on location of skin lesions and joint pain
  • Needles left in place for 15-30 minutes with repeat visits over 4-6 weeks
  • Simultaneous use of standard psoriasis medications

Patients often describe treatments as calming. Needling sensations range from numbness to tingling, warmth or dull ache. Bruising, minor pain or bleeding can occur.

Integrating Acupuncture into Your Regimen

Acupuncture can be a reasonable addition to a comprehensive psoriasis treatment plan which should also include:

  • Prescription topical steroids, calcineurin inhibitors or vitamin D analogs
  • Phototherapy or systemic medications for more severe cases
  • Medicated shampoos or oils if scalp involved
  • Psoriatic arthritis medications if joints affected
  • Stress reduction practices and trigger avoidance

Discuss using acupuncture with your dermatologist first. Track progress regularly and adjust treatments based on your response.

FAQs about Acupuncture for Psoriasis

What are the most common acupuncture points used to treat psoriasis?

Acupoints commonly used include those along the liver, spleen and stomach meridians. Some specific points are ST36, LV3, SP6, SP10, LI11, BL17 and BL20 which target organ systems involved in psoriasis pathogenesis.

How often should I get acupuncture for psoriasis?

Initially 1-2 times per week for 2-4 weeks is common, then reducing to every 1-2 weeks for maintenance. Concurrent use of other psoriasis treatments is key for optimal results.

Are there side effects or risks with using acupuncture?

When performed correctly by accredited practitioners, acupuncture is very low risk. Possible but uncommon side effects include pain, bleeding or bruising at needle sites.

Can acupuncture fully clear my psoriasis?

It is unlikely acupuncture alone can lead to complete clearance of psoriatic skin lesions. But it may provide some anti-inflammatory and antipruritic benefits as well as help prevent flares when combined with traditional medications.

Does insurance cover acupuncture treatment?

Some plans may partially cover acupuncture but this varies widely between policies. Confirm coverage specifics with your provider. Out-of-pocket payment per session often ranges from $70-150.

In summary, while better quality data is still needed, preliminary evidence indicates acupuncture can be a safe, well-tolerated adjunctive therapy alongside mainstay medical treatments for reducing psoriasis symptoms.

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