Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease in the world. According to the World Health Organization, more than 8 million people die every year from tobacco use, and about 1.2 million of them are non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of various health problems, such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. Quitting smoking can have immediate and long-term benefits for your health and well-being, but it can also be very challenging. Many smokers struggle with nicotine addiction, withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapses. If you are looking for a natural and effective way to quit smoking, you may want to consider acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy and promote healing. Acupuncture can help you quit smoking by reducing your nicotine dependence, easing your withdrawal symptoms, and enhancing your motivation and self-confidence.
How Acupuncture Works for Smoking Cessation
According to traditional Chinese medicine, smoking can cause an imbalance in the body’s energy system, which can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of energy by stimulating specific points on the body that correspond to different organs and systems. By doing so, acupuncture can influence several aspects of smoking cessation, such as:
- Regulating the nicotine receptors in the brain, which are responsible for the rewarding and addictive effects of smoking.
- Reducing the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, insomnia, headache, fatigue, and constipation.
- Decreasing the cravings and the urge to smoke, which are influenced by stress, emotions, habits, and triggers.
- Improving the mood and the well-being, which can enhance the self-esteem, the coping skills, and the resilience of the smoker.
- Detoxifying and repairing the lungs and other organs damaged by smoking, which can improve the breathing, the circulation, and the immune system.
One of the most common methods of acupuncture for smoking cessation is ear acupuncture, which involves stimulating certain points on the outer ear that are believed to control the hunger and the satiety signals in the brain. Ear acupuncture may also help with other issues that contribute to smoking, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Another method of acupuncture for smoking cessation is body acupuncture, which involves stimulating points on the arms, legs, back, or abdomen that are related to the lungs, the heart, the liver, the spleen, and the kidney. Body acupuncture may also help with the physical and mental effects of smoking, such as cough, phlegm, chest pain, palpitations, anger, frustration, and sadness.
What the Evidence Says About Acupuncture for Smoking Cessation
While acupuncture has been widely practiced and accepted in China and other Asian countries for centuries, its scientific evidence and acceptance in the Western world are still limited and mixed. There have been some studies that suggest that acupuncture may have a positive effect on smoking cessation, but they are often small, poorly designed, or inconclusive. Therefore, more rigorous and large-scale research is needed to confirm the benefits and the mechanisms of acupuncture for smoking cessation.
Some of the studies that have been conducted on acupuncture for smoking cessation include:
- A 2019 review of 16 trials involving 1,301 participants found that acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in body weight compared to sham acupuncture or no treatment. However, the authors noted that the quality of the studies was low and that the results should be interpreted with caution.
- A 2014 randomized controlled trial of 58 obese women compared the effects of ear acupuncture, body acupuncture, and sham acupuncture on weight loss and metabolic parameters. The results showed that both ear and body acupuncture were more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, body fat mass, and percent body fat. Ear acupuncture was also more effective than body acupuncture in reducing body weight and body mass index.
- A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 trials involving 3,013 participants evaluated the effects of acupuncture on weight-related outcomes and adverse events. The results indicated that acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture and no treatment in reducing body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference. However, the authors also stated that the evidence was low to moderate quality and that the heterogeneity and the risk of bias were high among the studies.
What to Expect from an Acupuncture Session
If you are interested in trying acupuncture for smoking cessation, you should first consult with your doctor and find a qualified and experienced acupuncturist. You can ask for a referral from your doctor or search online for reviews and recommendations. You can also check the credentials and certifications of the acupuncturist, such as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) or the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA). You should also make sure that the acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable needles and follows proper hygiene and safety protocols.
Before your first acupuncture session, you will need to fill out a health history form and answer some questions about your condition and goals. The acupuncturist will also examine your tongue, pulse, and other physical signs to determine your diagnosis and treatment plan. The acupuncturist will explain the procedure and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
To prepare for your session, you should wear loose and comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the areas that will be treated. You should also avoid eating a large meal or drinking alcohol before the session, as this may affect your energy and blood flow. You should also avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants, as they may interfere with the relaxation effect of acupuncture.
During the session, you will lie down on a padded table or a reclining chair. The acupuncturist will insert the needles into the selected points, usually on your ears, arms, legs, back, or abdomen. The number and location of the needles will depend on your condition and the style of acupuncture. The acupuncturist may also manipulate the needles by twisting, flicking, or moving them slightly to enhance the stimulation. Sometimes, the acupuncturist may also apply heat, electricity, or pressure to the needles or the points.
The needles will remain in place for about 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the treatment. During this time, you should relax and breathe deeply. You may feel some sensations from the needles, but they should not be painful or uncomfortable. If you do feel any discomfort, you should let the acupuncturist know so they can adjust the needles or remove them. You may also listen to soothing music, meditate, or nap while the needles are in place.
After the session, the acupuncturist will remove the needles and dispose of them safely. You may feel some mild soreness, bruising, or bleeding at the needle sites, but this is normal and should subside quickly. You may also feel relaxed, refreshed, or energized after the session, depending on your response. You should drink plenty of water and rest after the session, as this will help your body to heal and balance. You should also avoid strenuous activities, alcohol, and spicy foods for a few hours after the session, as they may affect your energy and blood flow.
The effects of acupuncture may vary from person to person, and may take some time to manifest. Some people may notice immediate relief or improvement, while others may need several sessions to see results. The acupuncturist will advise you on how often and how long you should receive acupuncture, based on your condition and progress. A typical course of acupuncture may consist of six to eight sessions, with one or two sessions per week. However, this may vary depending on your individual needs and preferences.
Are You Ready to Quit Smoking Using Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy that can help you with various health issues, such as pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia, allergies, and more. Acupuncture can also help you quit smoking by reducing your nicotine dependence, easing your withdrawal symptoms, and enhancing your motivation and self-confidence. However, the evidence for acupuncture for smoking cessation is still limited and mixed, and more research is needed to confirm its benefits and mechanisms. If you are interested in trying acupuncture for smoking cessation, schedule an appointment today.