5 Reasons Why Acupuncture Should Be Part of the Psoriasis Patients’ Toolkit
by Catherine Morris | September 1, 2020, updated about 1 month ago
When someone suggested Kyra Follis try acupuncture for her psoriasis, she was initially horrified, “I thought, absolutely not, my skin is already irritated, I am not putting needles in it!”
Follis, now a nutritionist, was working in an acupuncture clinic at the time, and what she saw swiftly changed her mind—“I saw patients do better with it. The acupuncture was bringing circulation to their skin, and you could see [the beneficial effects] almost immediately.”
Sure enough, Follis found that the ancient eastern practice not only visibly calmed her skin, but helped her relax, and control her stress. She's not alone—many psoriasis patients are now turning to this well-known branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine to control and manage their disease.
Not convinced? Below we break down why acupuncture is worth considering as part of a holistic health plan to alleviate and manage psoriasis symptoms.
1. Lessening Lesions
Psoriasis plaques are the most visible symptom of the disease, and one of the most troubling for many patients. These red, scaly, lesions can show up pretty much anywhere on the body and, in severe cases, cover up to 70 percent of the skin.
Acupuncture can help reduce psoriasis-related rashes. One study on mice found that acupuncture needling not only reduced skin lesions, but also softened the skin—leading the researchers to conclude that acupuncture could help psoriasis patients combat the tell-tale thickening of the skin seen in rashes.
2. Reducing inflammation
Acupuncture's effectiveness in treating chronic inflammatory conditions is well-known, and well-researched. When needles are inserted into acupuncture points, they stimulate the production of cortisol—the hormone that calms inflammation—and prompt the body to produce the feel-good chemical, dopamine.
3. Treating pain
By cooling inflammation, acupuncture fulfills another important function—pain relief.
A wide-ranging 2013 study tested the value of acupuncture on four chronic pain conditions, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain, and involved almost 18,000 patients. To rule out the placebo effect, some groups were given 'sham' acupuncture which seemed identical to the real thing, but where needles only superficially pierced the skin. This group saw no pain relief whereas the patients receiving genuine acupuncture noted significant improvement in their pain. This held true across the board, for all conditions.
4. Alleviating stress
As Krya Follis discovered, acupuncture is a powerful stress-reliever. Speaking of her experiences using acupuncture to treat her psoriasis, she says one of the best benefits was how it calmed her mind, “It helped me manage my stress levels and relax. It helped me shift my mind from being stressed and anxious about my skin all the time.”
Stress is a major trigger for psoriasis patients. Flare-ups happen when stressed, and stress causes flare-ups. Acupuncture can break that vicious cycle by calming the autonomic nervous system.
In one study, participants reported a “substantial decrease in stress levels” after just six weeks of acupuncture treatments, and this feeling of increased well-being lingered for at least three months after their final session.
5. Reducing the Itch
As if lesions, pain, and inflammation weren't enough, psoriasis patients also have to deal with maddening itching. Getting relief from the intense burning sensation can dramatically improve quality of life for those afflicted by the disease.
By reducing inflammation and calming stress, acupuncture also has a positive effect on the itchiness. In one example, a patient badly affected by psoriasis on the soles of her feet was given weekly acupuncture sessions over the course of 13 weeks, and saw very positive results. As her skin calmed, she noted a reduction in the itching sensation along with her pain.
Acupuncture has such a positive effect on itchy skin conditions, it has also been used to treat eczema and skin allergies.
Acupuncture is generally well-tolerated and regarded as a safe treatment with minimal side effects. However, every individual is different and it's best to speak with a certified acupuncturist and/or other members of your medical team before proceeding with any new treatment. Find what works for you!
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.