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Can Acupuncture Help Venous Insufficiency?

woman getting acupuncture treatment on knee

There’s some evidence that acupuncture might be able to offer relief for venous ulcers, varicose veins, and other conditions, but surgery remains the standard effective treatment. 

In recent years, there has been increased interest in minimally invasive procedures and therapies that can help manage the symptoms of vein-related disorders. One option you may be curious about is acupuncture. This technique has been used for millennia to treat pain and is now used by some as part of overall wellness regimens or to manage stress. But is acupuncture effective for treating vein disorders?

What Does Acupuncture Do?

Acupuncture has long been a part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the insertion of very thin needles into the skin at specific pressure points. In Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to rebalance the flow of energy throughout the body by placing needles at strategic spots. Western medicine tends to view the acupuncture points as places where needles can stimulate muscles, nerves, and connective tissues to boost the body’s production of natural painkillers.

The needles are incredibly thin and cause very little discomfort upon insertion, with many people reporting that they don’t feel them at all. A typical acupuncture session will involve the use of 5-20 needles. In general, the research is fairly mixed or inconclusive about the medical effectiveness of acupuncture, although that depends on which condition you hope to address. 

Acupuncture and Vein Conditions

However, when it comes to vein conditions, the effectiveness of acupuncture is a little unclear. The veins in our legs do a lot of the work of keeping blood moving from the extremities of the body back to the heart. Venous insufficiency is a chronic condition that affects the veins in the legs, causing them to have trouble maintaining efficient blood flow. This causes blood to stay in the legs — especially if you’re standing — which leads to a number of other health issues, including swelling, painful varicose veins, or ulcers. Venous ulcers are the most common type of skin ulceration of the body’s extremities, affecting more than 3 million people in the U.S.

Acupunctural practice holds that improper blood flow — also called “blood stasis” — can be the root cause for a range of health issues, including venous ulcers. Clinical studies have shown acupuncture not only stimulates pain relief in the body but also provokes peripheral vasodilation, or widening of the veins, which can result in reduced blood pressure and affect blood flow. In fact, one study found that acupuncture led to dramatic improvements when treating venous ulcers, so there’s some evidence to support this theory. In general, however, research and results have been mixed. 

Varicose veins — and their milder counterparts, spider veins — are also caused by improper blood flow in the legs, and can be unsightly and painful if left untreated. However, while one study from 1999 found that acupuncture could be used to relieve symptoms of varicose veins, there isn’t a large body of recent evidence to suggest the efficacy of the treatment. While it’s unlikely to be harmful if performed properly, acupuncture is not a substitute for today’s established treatments.  

Pursuing the Best Treatment for Your Vein Issues

So while there’s some evidence that acupuncture can be helpful to a limited extent in easing venous insufficiency conditions, the best and most effective way to ensure long-lasting results will involve seeing your doctor or a vein specialist. Surgical procedures to remove varicose and spider veins are usually quick, low-risk, and relatively painless. 
If you want to learn more or if you want to seek treatment for varicose veins and other conditions, don’t hesitate to contact Vein & Vascular Institute today. Dr. Dietzek and his team of expertly trained medical professionals are ready to answer any questions and concerns you may have and to discuss what treatment options are available.

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