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World Health Organization’s (WHO) List of Conditions and Diseases Treatable with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Since at least 200 BC, the application and effects of acupuncture and herbs have been documented. It is only recently, however, that systematic exploration of Chinese Medicine using the scientific method has become more recognized and accepted in the West.

Chinese and Western scientists have proven that acupuncture does indeed increase levels of endogenous morphine-like substances called ‘endorphins’, thus making it highly useful in the treatment of physical pain. Clinical studies of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of illnesses have now led to acupuncture’s acceptance for the treatment of many conditions beyond pain control as well.

The following is the World Health Organization’s now wll-known list of diseases that lend themselves to treatment by acupuncture. The inclusion of herbal remedies in a scope of practice may broaden both the range of disorders that may be successfully treated.

Diseases, symptoms, or conditions for which acupuncture has been proven – through controlled trials – to be an effective treatment will follow the WHO list.

Cardiovascular Disorders

  • Essential hypertension

Neurological Disorders

  • Cervical-brachial syndrome
  • Disc problems
  • Facial palsy (early stage, within three to six months)
  • Headache
  • Intercostal neuralgia
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Migraine
  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
  • Nocturnal enuresis
  • Paresis following stroke
  • Peripheral neuropathies
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Muscular-Skeletal Disorders

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • “Frozen shoulder”
  • Traumatic injuries such as contractures, spasms, sprains, strains, and Tendonitis
  • Low back pain
  • Muscle pain, swelling, stiffness and weakness
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sports related injuries
  • “Tennis elbow”
  • Work related injuries

Respiratory System Disorders

  • Acute bronchitis
  • Acute rhinitis
  • Acute sinusitis
  • Acute tonsillitis
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Common cold

Disorders of the Eye, Ear, Nose & Mouth

  • Acute and chronic pharyngitis
  • Acute conjunctivitis
  • Cataract (without complications)
  • Central retinitis
  • Gingivitis
  • Myopia (in children)
  • Post extraction pain
  • Toothaches

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Acute and chronic colitis
  • Acute and chronic gastritis
  • Acute bacillary dysentery
  • Acute duodenal ulcer (without complication)
  • Chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief)
  • Constipation
  • Gastric hyperacidity
  • Gastroptosis
  • Diarrhea
  • Hiccough
  • Irritable bowel and colitis
  • Paralytic ileus
  • Spasms of esophagus and cardia

Gynecological Disorders

  • Benign amenorrhea
  • Benign irregular menstruation
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Infertility (Not WHO recognized. Clinical experience proves effective.)
  • Menopause syndrome
  • PMS

Psychological Disorders

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hypersomnia
  • Insomnia
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Somatization disorder

Other Disorders

  • Appetite suppression
  • Withdrawal from street and pharmacological drugs


Alternately another classification system of conditions and diseases treatable by acupuncture follows:

1. Controlled trials have shown the efficacy of acupuncture for the following:

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Acupuncture: review and analysis of controlled clinical trials
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

  • Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
  • Acne vulgaris
  • Alcohol dependence and detoxification
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Cancer pain
  • Cardiac neurosis
  • Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
  • Cholelithiasis
  • Competition stress syndrome
  • Craniocerebral injury, closed
  • Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
  • Earache
  • Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
  • Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
  • Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
  • Female infertility
  • Facial spasm
  • Female urethral syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
  • Gastrokinetic disturbance
  • Gouty arthritis
  • Hepatitis B virus carrier status
  • Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
  • Hyperlipaemia
  • Hypo-ovarianism
  • Insomnia
  • Labour pain
  • Lactation, deficiency
  • Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
  • Ménière disease

3. Diseases and disorders that acupuncture is reputed to treat:

  • Neuralgia, post-herpetic
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Obesity
  • Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain due to endoscopic examination
  • Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)
  • Postextubation in children
  • Postoperative convalescence
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Prostatitis, chronic
  • Pruritus
  • Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
  • Raynaud syndrome, primary
  • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Retention of urine, traumatic
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sialism, drug-induced
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
  • Spine pain, acute
  • Stiff neck
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Tietze syndrome
  • Tobacco dependence
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis, chronic
  • Urolithiasis
  • Vascular dementia
  • Whooping cough (pertussis)
  • Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment:
  • Breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Coma
  • Convulsions in infants
  • Coronary heart disease (angina pectoris)
  • Diarrhoea in infants and young children
  • Encephalitis, viral, in children, late stage
  • Paralysis, progressive bulbar and pseudobulba

4. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:

  • Chloasma
  • Choroidopathy, central serous
  • Acupuncture: review and analysis of controlled clinical trials
  • Colour blindness
  • Deafness
  • Hypophrenia
  • Irritable colon syndrome
  • Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
  • Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
  • Small airway obstruction

Read more from the World Health Organization


Dr. Rebekah Kanter

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(505) 226-1237
369 Montezuma Ave. #531
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 989-7381 fax

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