Using Acupuncture for Asthma Symptoms

If you or your child has asthma, you may be wondering if acupuncture could be a useful treatment for improving asthma severity and asthma symptoms. This therapeutic approach may seem especially appealing to you because, unlike medication, acupuncture isn't known for having side effects. Let's take a look.

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Woman receiving acupuncture

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What Is Acupuncture?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

  • Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years in China and other Asian countries.
  • Acupuncture is currently under study for a treating wide range of conditions.
  • While not common, acupuncture can cause potentially serious side effects and should be delivered only by properly qualified practitioners.

Acupuncture involves the stimulation of certain points on the body, often with needles or electrodes, to gain a therapeutic effect. This is one of the most common complementary procedures, with millions of Americans participating each year for a number of different indications.

Acupuncture for Asthma

Acupuncture treatment is based on certain treatment points on the body that are used for different medical conditions. The points that are used for acupuncture treatment of asthma are still being established.


Several clinical trials and review studies have suggested that acupuncture may help improve asthma symptoms, but the evidence is not strong. A few studies have demonstrated that acupuncture decreased the amounts of medication needed and improved the quality of life for people with asthma, but overall studies have not demonstrated definitive benefits.

The Cochrane Collaboration Review, a not-for-profit group that issues information related to the usefulness of treatments for specific diseases, has examined the use of acupuncture for chronic asthma treatment. The review found that while some improvements in asthma were seen, the results were not consistent. The authors concluded "no recommendations" regarding acupuncture as a treatment for asthma could be made.

Additionally, there have been several recent randomized controlled trials. Placebo acupuncture treatments—which include sham acupuncture or no acupuncture—found no difference in objective measures of asthma control, such as peak flow, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, pulmonary function tests, or medication use when comparing patients receiving acupuncture to those receiving placebo.

As a result, there is currently little evidence to support or recommend acupuncture as an effective treatment for asthma.

Side Effects

While there are relatively few adverse effects associated with acupuncture, that doesn't mean it's 100% safe. In a review of medical studies that looked at the adverse effects of acupuncture over a 13-year period, the authors determined that acupuncture can generally be considered a safe treatment.

Common acupuncture side effects and how to manage them:

  • Fatigue following treatment is not unusual and can be simply treated with rest.
  • While it isn't common, bruising is a potential side effect you should be aware of before beginning acupuncture treatment. If you have this side effect, be sure to discuss it with your acupuncturist.
  • Some people who have a fear of needles report feeling light-headed. Be careful when standing up after your first few treatments until you know your response.

During the procedure, you may experience muscle twitching. This is not really a side effect, but a consequence of the procedure, and it is normal. Sometimes muscle spasms can be significant enough to cause pain. Let your acupuncturist know if you experience this, but do not be alarmed.

A Word From Verywell

Acupuncture may help improve asthma symptoms for some people, but the evidence supporting this procedure for the treatment of asthma is significantly lacking. Currently, there are no specific recommendations regarding the frequency of treatment, or whether any specific types of asthma are more or less likely to improve with acupuncture therapy

Before you seek out a practitioner for acupuncture treatment, be sure to discuss this option with your regular healthcare provider.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Acupuncture: In Depth.

  2. Shang PP, Chen CT, Cheng M, Shi YL, Yang YQ, Wang Y, Xu YD. Analysis of ccupoint selection and combinations in acupuncture treatment of asthma based on data mining. Complement Med Res. 2022;29(2):136-146. doi:10.1159/000521346

  3. Mccarney RW, Brinkhaus B, Lasserson TJ, Linde K. Acupuncture for chronic asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD000008. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000008.pub2

  4. Medici TC, Grebski E, Wu J, Hinz G, Wüthrich B. Acupuncture and bronchial asthma: a long-term randomized study of the effects of real versus sham acupuncture compared to controls in patients with bronchial asthma. J Altern Complement Med. 2002;8(6):737-50. doi:10.1089/10755530260511748

  5. Yin LM, Wang Y, Fan L, et al. Efficacy of acupuncture for chronic asthma: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2015;16:424. doi:10.1186/s13063-015-0947-z

  6. Norheim AJ. Adverse effects of acupuncture: a study of the literature for the years 1981-1994. J Altern Complement Med. 1996 Summer;2(2):291-7. doi:10.1089/acm.1996.2.291

  7. Norheim AJ. Adverse effects of acupuncture: a study of the literature for the years 1981-1994. J Altern Complement Med. 1996;2(2):291-7. doi:10.1089/acm.1996.2.291

Additional Reading
  • Gruber W, Eber E, Malle-Scheid D, et al. Laser acupuncture in children and adolescents with exercise-induced asthma. Thorax 2002, 57:222–225.
  • Malmstrom M, Ahlner J, Carlsson C, et al. No effect of Chinese acupuncture on isocapnic hyperventilation with cold air in asthmatics, measured with impulse oscillometry. Acupunct Med 2002, 20:66–73.
  • Medici TC, Grebski E, Wu J, et al. Acupuncture and bronchial asthma: a long-term randomized study of the effects of real versus sham acupuncture compared to controls in patients with bronchial asthma. J Altern Complement Med 2002, 8:737–750.
  • Shapira MY, Berkman N, Ben-David G, et al. Short-term acupuncture therapy is of no benefit in patients with moderate persistent asthma. Chest 2002,121:1396–1400.

By Pat Bass, MD
Dr. Bass is a board-certified internist, pediatrician, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.