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Unlocking Acupuncture’s Potential in Psoriasis Management: A Comprehensive Guide

When we talk about alternative and complementary therapies, it is not possible to ignore the age-old practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture has garnered attention for its potential in addressing a myriad of health concerns. However, can acupuncture, with its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, offer relief to individuals grappling with the chronic skin condition known as psoriasis? Read on to uncover whether the strategic placement of needles can indeed play a role in alleviating the challenges posed by a chronic disease like psoriasis.

Brief Overview of Acupuncture and Psoriasis

Acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. These points are believed to correspond to pathways of energy, known as meridians, and the stimulation of these points is thought to balance the flow of energy and promote the body’s natural healing processes. Acupuncture is often used to alleviate various health conditions, including pain management, stress reduction, and digestive issues. It is based on the idea that the body’s vital energy, called “qi” or “chi,” can become blocked or imbalanced, leading to illness or discomfort. (1,2)

By placing needles at specific acupuncture points, practitioners aim to restore the balance of qi and improve overall well-being. While it is considered an alternative therapy in many parts of the world, acupuncture has gained recognition and popularity as a complementary approach to conventional medicine.(3)

Meanwhile, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disorder characterized by the rapid overproduction of skin cells. It is a non-contagious condition that affects the skin, nails, and sometimes the joints. People with psoriasis develop thick, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches can be itchy, painful, and cosmetically distressing. The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.(4,5)

The immune system plays a central role in psoriasis, as it mistakenly identifies healthy skin cells as foreign invaders and triggers an inflammatory response. This results in the accelerated growth and accumulation of skin cells, leading to the characteristic psoriatic plaques. Psoriasis can vary in severity, with some individuals experiencing mild, localized symptoms and others facing more widespread and severe manifestations. While there is no cure for psoriasis, various treatments, including topical creams, phototherapy, and medications, can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected.(6)

In recent times, the technique of acupuncture is being increasingly explored as a complementary therapy for managing the symptoms of chronic conditions like psoriasis. Let us look at the potential of acupuncture in psoriasis management.

Potential of Acupuncture in Psoriasis Management

Acupuncture has been explored as a potential complementary therapy for individuals dealing with psoriasis. While it may not offer a cure, some people with psoriasis have reported experiencing relief from certain symptoms and improved overall well-being through acupuncture.

The underlying principle of acupuncture involves the balance and flow of vital energy, known as qi or chi, within the body. Acupuncturists target specific acupuncture points along meridians or energy pathways, aiming to restore harmony and alleviate imbalances. In the context of psoriasis, proponents of acupuncture argue that it can help address some contributing factors to the condition, such as stress, inflammation, and immune system dysfunction.

Here are some ways in which acupuncture may potentially benefit individuals with psoriasis:

  • Stress Reduction: Stress is known to trigger or exacerbate psoriasis flare-ups in some people. Acupuncture is well-regarded for its stress-reduction capabilities, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. By alleviating stress, acupuncture may indirectly help manage psoriasis symptoms.
  • Pain and Itch Relief: Psoriasis can be uncomfortable and even painful, especially when skin lesions are severe. Acupuncture’s ability to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, can provide relief from itching and discomfort associated with psoriasis plaques.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Some studies suggest that acupuncture may have anti-inflammatory properties. By modulating the body’s inflammatory response, acupuncture could potentially help reduce the severity of psoriatic lesions.

However, it is essential to approach acupuncture as a complementary therapy rather than a standalone treatment for psoriasis. While anecdotal reports of improvement exist, scientific evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture for psoriasis remains limited and somewhat mixed. Not all individuals with psoriasis may experience the same benefits, and outcomes can vary.

Some of the top research on acupuncture and psoriasis are as follows:

  • A systematic review from 2015 noted the presence of “some evidence of benefit” when using acupuncture to treat psoriasis. However, it is essential to acknowledge that these conclusions were drawn from a limited number of studies, and there were instances of conflicting results.(7)
  • In a 2017 literature overview exploring acupuncture’s role in managing psoriasis, the authors expressed a more optimistic stance. The research team contended that acupuncture offered a “simple, convenient, and effective” treatment option, with minimal side effects and a low risk of toxicity.(8)
  • Another review in 2017, analyzing 13 randomized trials, suggested that acupuncture-related treatments might be considered as an alternative therapy for the short-term management of psoriasis. The review also emphasized the potential benefit of conducting more well-designed studies to further explore this treatment approach.(9)
  • In another literature overview conducted in 2016, it was suggested that acupuncture treatment for psoriasis showed promise as an effective option with minimal side effects.(10)
  • An intriguing study from 2004, involving 80 participants, demonstrated an impressive 91.3 percent effectiveness rate in alleviating psoriasis symptoms after merely five acupuncture sessions.(11)
  • An older study dating back to 1992 revealed compelling results. Approximately half of the participants (30 out of 61) experienced either complete clearance or near-complete clearance of their psoriasis lesions following around nine acupuncture sessions. Moreover, fourteen participants witnessed clearance in two-thirds of their lesions.(12)

While these findings offer some encouragement regarding the use of acupuncture in psoriasis management, it is also crucial to recognize that scientific consensus on its effectiveness remains a subject of ongoing research and debate. Therefore, individuals considering acupuncture as part of their psoriasis treatment strategy should engage in open discussions with both qualified acupuncturists and healthcare providers to make informed decisions tailored to their specific needs.

If you are considering acupuncture as part of your psoriasis management plan, it is crucial to consult with a licensed and experienced acupuncturist. Remember that what works best for managing psoriasis can differ from person to person, so open communication with your healthcare team is key.

Acupuncture for Psoriasis: What Does the Process Involve?

During an acupuncture session, your acupuncturist will initiate the process by discussing your pain and symptoms, closely examining any areas of concern. The acupuncture needles used in this procedure are sterile and incredibly thin, often likened to the width of a single strand of hair. These needles will be gently inserted into your skin at varying depths, a range typically spanning from one to two inches, depending on the specific technique employed by your practitioner.

Once all the needles are in place, they will typically remain in your skin for a duration of up to 20 minutes. During this time, you might experience sensations such as a profound heaviness or mild numbness, indicating that the treatment is actively engaging with your body’s energy flow. Notably, in the case of psoriasis, your acupuncturist may opt to strategically surround visible psoriasis flare-ups with needles, a technique known as “surrounding the dragon.” This approach aims to enhance the flow of chi (energy) to the affected area and harmonize your immune system.(13)

Alternatively, needles may be placed at specific points on your body, depending on the location of the psoriasis lesions. For example, if lesions are present on your head, acupuncturists might target points like Ying Xiang (near the nose) and Su Liao (tip of the nose) to address the condition.(14)

Are There Any Risks Involved in Acupuncture Treatment for Managing Psoriasis?

While there is compelling anecdotal evidence and some research supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for psoriasis, it is important to recognize that it may not provide relief for everyone. Individuals undergoing acupuncture may occasionally experience mild soreness during or after the procedure, although this discomfort typically subsides quickly.

Acupuncture, when performed in a clean environment using sterile needles, generally has few side effects. However, the use of non-sterilized needles can lead to infections. Most side effects associated with acupuncture in research studies stem from improper technique or a lack of skill in the practitioner. Therefore, seeking the services of an experienced and properly trained acupuncture provider is paramount. In cases of substandard treatment, there is a risk of experiencing additional pain.(15)

For individuals with psoriasis, it is essential to be aware that regular acupuncture sessions may be necessary, especially for managing flare-ups. This requirement can be time-consuming and potentially costly, particularly if insurance coverage is unavailable.

People with bleeding disorders should exercise caution, as acupuncture could elevate the risk of bleeding or bruising. Additionally, individuals with pacemakers should consult with their doctors before undergoing acupuncture, especially if the treatment involves adding electric currents to the needles. Such currents could potentially interfere with the functioning of pacemakers.

While extremely rare, there is a remote possibility of organ injury if acupuncture needles are inserted too deeply into certain areas. The most common organ injury associated with acupuncture is pneumothorax, a condition involving a collapsed lung. If you encounter severe pain, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or any other sudden and severe symptoms following acupuncture, seek immediate emergency medical attention. It is also crucial to inform your healthcare provider if you are taking blood thinners to ensure safe and appropriate care.


Exploring acupuncture’s potential in managing psoriasis reveals a multifaceted approach. While some individuals report relief from symptoms through this ancient practice, its effectiveness varies, and potential risks such as mild discomfort, the need for regular sessions, and rare adverse events must be considered.

Decisions regarding acupuncture as part of a psoriasis management plan should be made in consultation with healthcare providers to balance its potential benefits and risks. Psoriasis management is complex, and while acupuncture offers a complementary option, it should be approached thoughtfully with a comprehensive understanding of its potential in the context of individual needs and circumstances.

Also Read:


  1. Chon, T.Y. and Lee, M.C., 2013, October. Acupuncture. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 88, No. 10, pp. 1141-1146). Elsevier.
  2. Kaptchuk, T.J., 2002. Acupuncture: theory, efficacy, and practice. Annals of internal medicine, 136(5), pp.374-383.
  3. Stux, G., Berman, B. and Pomeranz, B., 2003. Basics of acupuncture. Springer Science & Business Media.
  4. Gudjonsson, J.E., Johnston, A., Sigmundsdottir, H. and Valdimarsson, H., 2004. Immunopathogenic mechanisms in psoriasis. Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 135(1), pp.1-8.
  5. Griffiths, C.E. and Barker, J.N., 2007. Pathogenesis and clinical features of psoriasis. The Lancet, 370(9583), pp.263-271.
  6. Liu, Y., Krueger, J.G. and Bowcock, A.M., 2007. Psoriasis: genetic associations and immune system changes. Genes & Immunity, 8(1), pp.1-12.
  7. Coyle, M., Deng, J., Zhang, A.L., Yu, J., Guo, X., Xue, C.C. and Lu, C., 2015. Acupuncture therapies for psoriasis vulgaris: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Medicine Research, 22(2), pp.102-109.
  8. Xiang, Y., Wu, X., Lu, C. and Wang, K., 2017. An overview of acupuncture for psoriasis vulgaris, 2009–2014. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 28(3), pp.221-228.
  9. Yeh, M.L., Ko, S.H., Wang, M.H., Chi, C.C. and Chung, Y.C., 2017. Acupuncture-related techniques for psoriasis: a systematic review with pairwise and network meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(12), pp.930-940.
  10. Xiang, Y., Wu, X., Lu, C. and Wang, K., 2017. An overview of acupuncture for psoriasis vulgaris, 2009–2014. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 28(3), pp.221-228.
  11. Ye, L., 2004. Treatment of psoriasis by acupuncture plus Chinese herbs: A report of 80 cases. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, 2, pp.16-17.
  12. Liao, S.J. and Liao, T.A., 1992. Acupuncture treatment for psoriasis: a retrospective case report. Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research, 17(4), pp.195-208.
  13. Vincent, C.A. and Richardson, P.H., 1986. The evaluation of therapeutic acupuncture: concepts and methods. Pain, 24(1), pp.1-13.
  14. Hui, K.K., Nixon, E.E., Vangel, M.G., Liu, J., Marina, O., Napadow, V., Hodge, S.M., Rosen, B.R., Makris, N. and Kennedy, D.N., 2007. Characterization of the” deqi” response in acupuncture. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 7, pp.1-16.
  15. Wu, J., Hu, Y., Zhu, Y., Yin, P., Litscher, G. and Xu, S., 2015. Systematic review of adverse effects: a further step towards modernization of acupuncture in China. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 6, 2023

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