Acupuncture: the alternative medicine that works by turning you into a human pincushion.

Skeptical? We get it. But research shows that stimulating specific trigger points with hyper-thin needles *can* actually relieve chronic pain. Some needle nerds also say the treatment works for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Jen Grantham/Stocksy United

Psoriasis = redness, itching, and flaking from your face to your nether regions. The autoimmune condition can also cause stiff, swollen joints, which is called psoriatic arthritis (PsA for short).

So, what can a little needlework do about it?

First things first: Acupuncture for psoriasis centers on helping you manage your symptoms, *not* on curing the condition. It may do this in a few ways:

  • Acupuncture may soothe stress. Peeps living with psoriasis know that stress triggers flare-ups. In one small study of stressed-AF college students, those who received 12 weeks of regular acupuncture reported significantly less stress than those who got a placebo treatment for the same length of time.
  • Acupuncture can relieve joint pain. The National Institutes of Health‘s hot take is “Research suggests that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions.” A 2018 research review specifically says acupuncture for arthritis (hello, PsA) is “worth trying.” So, if your psoriasis or PsA is painful (and when is it not, really?), acupuncture might help.
  • Acupuncture helps with anxiety. Wanna see a vicious cycle in action? Stress ➡️ flare-up ➡️ anxiety over skin ➡️ stress ➡️ flare-up… You get the picture. The good news is that research suggests acupuncture can significantly reduce anxiety levels, nipping that whole cycle in the bud.

Wanna give this thing a whirl?

Your first step is to find a professionally trained, licensed acupuncturist in your area. This is critical to avoid injury and infection, especially around delicate, inflamed skin!

Treatment prep

Acupuncture sessions are a bit like massage therapy sessions. Just arrive with a clean body and an open mind. It’s best to wear comfy, loose clothing in case you need to disrobe and bare large sections of skin.

Before your first treatment sesh, your acupuncturist should chat through your symptoms and problem areas.

Your acupuncture session

During the actual treatment, you’ll probably lie down on a bed or table with a sheet or blanket to stay warm.

Your acupuncturist will gently tap sterile, thin-as-a-strand-of-hair needles into your skin around your problem areas. Expect needles to be placed 1 to 2 inches deep.

Next, you’ll rest with the needles in your body for 20 minutes or longer. This is when the “magic” happens — in other words, when the treatment is supposed to summon chi (energy) to the treated area, stimulating your immune system.

When time’s up, your acupuncturist will gently remove the needles, safely discard them (the needles are single-use), and then send you on your merry way.

Friendly reminder: Acupuncture isn’t a quick fix. It’s normal to attend several sessions before seeing an improvement in your symptoms. In one case report, for instance, a woman went to 13 sessions over 13 weeks before she experienced a difference in her psoriasis.

When done by a professional, acupuncture is considered generally safe. But always check with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to find board certified providers in your area.

Getting punctured by someone who *isn’t* a pro could lead to:

  • infections from dirty needles (🤢 )
  • injury
  • punctured organs

In super rare cases, deep acupuncture can cause internal injury. A collapsed lung is a big deal, so go to the emergency room ASAP if you experience any of these symptoms after your acupuncture session:

  • stabbing chest pain
  • sudden pressure in your chest
  • severe pain that wraps from your shoulder to your back
  • trouble breathing
  • coughing up blood

Finally, there’s the risk that acupuncture won’t do a thing for your psoriasis. You’ll need to commit to several sessions before knowing if it’s effective, and that could mean feeling like you’ve wasted time and money.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) combines mind and body practices for a holistic approach to health issues.

Fans of TCM use a variety of treatments to help with psoriasis, but research is still pretty limited on their effectiveness. Here’s what we know.

Su Jok therapy for psoriasis

Su Jok (sometimes written “Sujok”) is a type of acupressure. This therapy is based on the idea that stimulating pressure points on your hands and feet can soothe pain in other areas of your body.

A recent study in just 46 people suggests that Su Jok does relieve pain, but there’s not enough research to confirm whether that’s a placebo effect or something more.

There also haven’t been studies on the effect of Su Jok on psoriasis specifically.

Reflexology for psoriasis

Reflexology uses pressure points in the hands, feet, and ears. Like acupuncture, reflexology is backed by research as a remedy for stress and anxiety.

Researchers are still studying reflexology and acupressure for psoriasis. At the moment, the jury’s still out on its effectiveness.

Absolutely. These home remedies aren’t a substitute for doctor-prescribed treatments, but they can definitely play nice with your meds — or even work alone against mild flare-ups:

  • Stay moisturized. Yep, it’s common because it works. Remember to use fragrance-free thick creams and oils to keep the flakes away without irritating your skin.
  • Take a bath. Soak your bod in colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salt. It’s soothing *and* relaxing!
  • Watch what you eat. What goes in must come out… and sometimes it comes out as a flare-up. Eat your way to fewer flare-ups by noshing on fruits, veggies, and healthy fats instead of red meat, dairy, and gluten.
  • Try supplements. Some folks living with psoriasis swear by turmeric and fish oil. Just check with your doc before trying these.
  • Zap scalp psoriasis with zinc. Ya know those special medicated shampoos? They’re infused with inflammation-fighting zinc!
  • Be gentle. And we mean that in alllll the ways. Opt for mild, fragrance-free soaps and lotions. Avoid stressful situations that could trigger a flare-up. And be gentle with your emotions. Psoriasis can feel frustrating and isolating, so reach out to a friend or your doc when flare-ups get you down.

Acupuncture and acupressure are alternative treatments used to help with pain, weight loss, labor, and more. Adding acupuncture to your psoriasis arsenal might be helpful, but there’s not enough research to prove it’s completely effective.

If you do try acupuncture for psoriasis, remember to be patient. Results can take several weeks.

Keep your doctor in the loop if you’re trying new psoriasis treatments, including acupuncture. When they have the whole picture, they can give you the best treatment plan for your symptoms.