Acupuncture VS Massage - Which Is Better For Chronic Pain?

In a groundbreaking study from the American Pain Association, approximately 86 million of Americans experience chronic pain. When you say chronic pain, it is described as persistent pain signals, which repeatedly hit your nervous system. Typically, it lasts from weeks to years.

Fortunately, massage and acupuncture were introduced, two well-known traditional Chinese medical practices that provide relief for the body’s pain and aches. However, are these two procedures similar? Which one is better? Read on to learn more!

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture refers to the technique of relieving pain and nausea through penetrating one's skin at particular acupressure points by means of thin needles. It is performed to stimulate specific parts of your body.

Popularly used in Western medicine these days, acupuncture is also known as the oldest healing practice in Asia. It is said to regulate your chi (the flow of energy) all over your body.

If the blood and energy are not flowing properly, it will cause pain or sickness as per Chinese’s beliefs.

How does it helps ?

acupuncture treatment
  • Side effects treatment. Joshua Singer, an author and licensed acupuncturist in Montpelier, highly suggests acupuncture for side effects of chemotherapy, sprained ankles, post operation, dental pain and migraines as well as tension headaches. Normally, the process involves a minimum of 10 to 12 visits, along with an initial evaluation and examination of the patient’s ailment.

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  • Helps in treating certain illnesses. Based on World Health Organization, acupuncture can treat more than 100 illnesses including respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive and mental-emotional illnesses.


Nevertheless, acupuncture doesn't actually heal your body. It only relieves the pain. There are instances that it is used to ease anxiety for some patients, but is not being utilized as an anesthesia.

What about massage?

On the other hand, therapeutic massage pertains to the manual kneading and manipulation of connective tissue and muscle which helps in reducing pain and tension. It requires motion and pressure to certain body parts in order to be effective.

In other words, it mainly utilizes touch to help your body achieve a better state. Skin, tendons, ligaments, joints, lymphatic vessels as well as other gastrointestinal organs can be benefited from this technique.

A massage therapist can use his hand, knees, feet, fingers, elbows, and forearm along with mechanical aids. It can be performed everywhere – on a table, chair, or mat.

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Benefits of massage

massage therapy
  • Helps in muscular injuries. It has been documented that massage significantly helps in any muscular injuries. Although muscular pain tends to be not as painful as nerve injuries, however, it lasts longer. In worst case scenario, it will not show any signs of improvement. With the help of massage, your muscles and nervous system emit endorphins, which aid in making your muscles less painful and better than before.

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  • Helps in muscle pain and blood circulation. Massage also aids individuals with tight muscles on their body, resulting in shoulder and neck pain. Through releasing tension on these muscles, massage could make anyone feel relieved. Furthermore, it can boost your immunity, regulate your blood pressure, enhance blood circulation, reduce discomfort you normally felt during pregnancy and aid in your intense workout session.


  • Helps to improve your sleep. A good massage with a therapist, a massage chair or manual massage tools provides a great way to relax after all the sitting we do these days at work and at home. It is good to know that massage for babies can provide good results on their sleep, cries and stress level during the day.

Which One of Acupuncture or Massage Is Better?

Going back to the original topic, acupuncture vs. massage, which do you think do better for neck and back pain? Let's dive into 2 interesting research

#1. Research on 177 individuals with chronic pain

A recent research, which was conducted by Dr. Dominik Irnich, claims that acupuncture is more effective than the latter. Dr. Irnich is a renowned anesthesiologist at German Medical Acupuncture Association and University of Munich, whose specialization is focused in pain therapy.

He and his colleagues cured 177 individuals who experienced chronic pain through massage, acupuncture, and laser acupuncture.

People who received laser acupuncture understood that the special laser light needed to be beamed on their acupuncture points to stimulate these points.

During the procedure, the laser light actually did nothing. It is conducted to control the notion alone of getting an acupuncture might impact the whole result. They’ve called it the ‘placebo effect’.

Then, right after a week, individuals with acupuncture treatments proved to experience greater improvement on their movements associated with neck pain unlike people treated with massage.

Conclusion of this research :

  • Conversely, the difference between the two groups is relatively small. After three months, there’s no difference at all when it comes to pain or neck mobility.

The only main difference will be, in the short term, where an acupuncture session would, most of the time (according to this research) be more efficient than a massage for pain relief but no real difference in the long run.

#2. Another research by Dr Cummings

But the acupuncture vs. massage argument doesn’t just end there. One recent study which was published in Archives of Internal Medicine insists that when one compares acupuncture and massage in treating back pain, massage dominates.

As per Mike Cummings, the Medical Director of a well-known British Medical Acupuncture Society situated in London, a difficulty in the acupuncture research actually lies in teasing out that placebo effect.

During the neck pain research, laser acupuncture was utilized in order to manipulate the notion of having an acupuncture for neck pain. However, the experience getting a light right on your neck and having thin needles stuck right into this part isn’t the same at all.

Thus, Cumming concluded that he doesn’t believe that there’s clear evidence proving that either massage therapy or acupuncture is best for chronic pain. It is all about personal experience and preference.

Conclusion of this research :

  • Acupuncture is best for people who desires for a quick response. On one hand, if you hate needles, massage is a good option. Cummings further explained that they are just the same therapy type known as pressure stimulus.

He also added that acupuncture is an intense pressure within the muscles while massage cannot get that intensity of pressure.

What to think about all this? Our final verdict

In comparison between acupuncture and massage, both actually provide natural treatments and healing benefits for individuals who experience them and achieved the relief they need.

So, considering the facts above, will you book for an acupuncture treatment or will you stick with massage therapy?

How about combining massage & acupuncture? It seems to be the best option to get the most out of these two specific techniques of relaxation and pain-relief.


Whatever you choose, just don’t forget to consult a certified acupuncturist or massage therapist prior to undergoing any of these treatments so you can determine what’s best for your condition.

After the consultation and examination, they will create a treatment plan based on your results and goals.

Acupuncture VS Massage – Which Is Better For Chronic Pain?
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