NSAIDS and Acupuncture


Photo by Rodrigo Senna https://www.flickr.com/photos/negativz/

My mentor has always been ahead of the curve in so many ways. It was nearly a decade ago that he stressed the importance of avoiding NSAIDS when receiving acupuncture. NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are a group of drugs that include:

  • Acetylsalicylic acid: aspirin, Bufferin, Excedrin
  • Ibuprofen: Motrin, Advil
  • Naproxen sodium: Aleve, Naprosyn

These drugs counter inflammation by inhibiting the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 (pro-inflammatory prostaglandins). But is this a good strategy for healing?

 The 3 stages of healing

Science has delineated 3 general steps in healing an injury; first inflammation, second cell proliferation, and lastly remodeling. So the body has to inflame in order to heal. As a wise man once said “you can have inflammation without healing but you can’t have healing without inflammation”.

 Healthy tissue isn’t inflamed

I think that the current standard of care sees that healthy tissue isn’t inflamed so the thought seems to be that turning off the inflammatory response will make the tissue healthy. I believe this is misguided.

 Like Building a House

I often use the analogy of building a house with my patients. When you build a house, first you build the foundation, then the walls, and finally the roof. Taking an NSAID is analogous to the building inspector coming by and saying that foundations crack, so skip that part and just build the walls and roof. This wouldn’t make a good home and some evidence suggests that NSAIDS don’t make a good long term injury repair.

 Ashi Acupuncture

If you are doing aggressive ashi style acupuncture, you are causing micro trauma at the insertion site. The body will naturally begin to inflame in response to this. That is exactly what we want to have happen! It is important to counsel the patient to avoid NSAIDS as much as possible so that healing isn’t interfered with. I put it this way, “Do your best to tough it out. If you can’t sleep or function, then take something. As we make more progress it will easier to avoid taking them. It is both of our goals to get you off of that crap!”


Here is a webpage with some great links to learn more.  http://www.zhenggutuina.com/resources/articles/