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Acupuncture might sound woo-woo, but a meta-analysis indicated that pincushion treatment can relieve pain. Things get a little murkier when it comes to using acupuncture for weight loss.

Choosing to lose weight is a highly personal decision, and the journey can be emotional. It’s best to avoid fad diets and use science-backed methods.

Unfortunately, there’s not much research on acupuncture for weight loss. So, let’s unpack what we know so far.

tl;dr

The research on acupuncture for weight loss is very limited. It’s tough to say whether people find success because of the treatments or their positive attitudes and healthy lifestyle changes.

Maaaybe.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, acupuncture works by stimulating specific spots on your body. Most sessions involve a practitioner inserting super thin needles into your skin, but sometimes electrical stimulation is used instead.

Fans say that when your body’s energy flow, known as chi, is stimulated by the acupuncture, a few things happen:

According to ancient Chinese medicine, your body gets out of balance when certain organs aren’t working properly. That *does* sound concerning, after all. According to these practitioners, you tend to gain weight when your body’s out of balance.

To regain balance and halt the weight gain, acupuncture treatments for weight loss target these body parts:

Bottom line: When your hormones or organs aren’t working properly, you’re more likely to gain weight. Acupuncture aims to get your systems running smoothly again, which is said to aid weight loss.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to acupuncture or weight loss.

Hoping to lose just a couple of pounds? You might only need to schedule a few treatments.

Aiming to drop 10 to 15 pounds of excess weight? Plan for several treatments per week for 6 to 8 weeks.

Your gameplan will vary depending on your acupuncture practitioner. In most cases, the number of visits per week will decrease as you go through the program.

Believing that your needle sessions are helping you lose weight might actually help you lose weight. (Read that again.)

Positive self-talk reduces stress to help you achieve your goals, whether they’re health-related or not. A research review showed that people with obesity often have more negative self-talk, which leads to overeating as a coping mechanism.

So, yeah, if your acupuncture treatments are making you a happier and healthier person, those positive vibes are probably helping you stick to your diet and fitness goals. *mic drop*

Fair question.

Some research does seem to suggest that acupuncture could boost weight loss potential. A 2009 research review showed a couple of things:

  • The studies linked acupuncture to an average of 3.8 more pounds of weight loss than weight loss caused by lifestyle changes alone.
  • But also (dun-dun-dun), the studies were mostly poor quality.

Let’s break that down: Though the studies said that acupuncture for weight loss works, two-thirds of the trials got a poor grade on the Jadad scale, which assesses research reliability and quality.

Comparing these studies was also like comparing apples to oranges because these factors varied so wildly:

  • techniques
  • session lengths
  • number of sessions
  • number of acupuncture points used
  • placebos or “fake” treatments for comparison

Throw in the fact that acupuncture is already a deeply personal treatment, and it’s tough to tell if it’s effective for the general population. 🤷

According to acupuncture practitioners, there are pressure points on your ears that control food cravings.

You can apply acupressure on yourself with ear magnets, aka ear seeds. Wearing these teensy magnets keeps constant pressure on the “food craving” nerves of your ears.

In a 2010 weight loss study, the participants who wore ear magnets did decrease their body mass indexes. It’s worth noting that other health-related measurements, like cholesterol levels, actually went up.

If you’re not a fan of the DIY element of ear magnets, you can see a practitioner who specializes in ear acupuncture or acupressure for weight loss. These programs are similar to the ones that use acupuncture to help smokers or drug addicts quit.

Would you go to a dirty tattoo parlor? No. (We hope.) The same goes for your acupuncturist.

Do your research and go to a professionally trained, licensed acupuncture practitioner in your area.

Going to a pro will help you avoid these nasty side effects:

  • punctured organs
  • nerve injury
  • collapsed lungs
  • infections

Safety first!

Acupuncture *might* help you lose weight. The jury’s still out on the science behind it, but some folks report positive results.

Even if you go to an acupuncturist while slimming down, there’s no guarantee that your weight loss results from the needles. It could be your positive mindset or a recent focus on healthy living.

Still interested in giving acupuncture a whirl? Be sure to choose a licensed practitioner, discuss the treatment with your doctor, choose healthy foods, and exercise to support your weight loss goals.