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Acupuncture for Itching

May 2, 2014

An itching sensation ensues when the skin starts to tingle and the urge to scratch is very strong.  Most cases of itching are not serious but the uncomfortable sensation can eventually result in too much scratching that can injure the skin. Acupuncture is a Chinese healing modality thousands of years old that can help relieve the itching sensation.  It is recommended that you talk with your doctor first before getting acupuncture treatment.

Causes of Itching

There may be so many possible causes of itching – some may be caused by dry skin and in some severe cases, it may be due to damaged nerves.  There are four classifications of itching according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, these are psychogenic, neurogenic, neuropathic and pruriceptive.  Chemical imbalances in the body, especially the ones involving norepinephrine and serotonin may lead to psychogenic itching. This type of itching may be relieved with antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs. Neurogenic itching can occur when the patient suffers from kidney or chronic liver disease, neuropathic itching can result from damage to the nervous system,  Pruriceptive itching can be caused by damage to the skin due to conditions such as inflammation, eczema, drug reactions and hives.

It is the job of acupuncturists to evaluate the symptoms of their patients in order to customize a plan of treatment that will treat their patient’s specific needs.  Since acupuncture treatment is really based on the symptoms and physiology of the patient, patients may get different treatments for basically the same health problems. Acupuncturists can identify the acupuncture points that are often utilized to stop itching. The Gall Bladder point 31 point, for example, situated on the thigh is needled to address itchy red skin. The Urinary Bladder 17 point is essential for itchy skin problems such as eczema, and is found on the back near the spine. The Urinary Bladder 13 point, very near to the Urinary Bladder 17 point, is treated to address acne and hives as well as generalized itching.


The Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology & Venereology posted studies in 2010 assessing case studies and scientific research on the treatment of acupuncture for itching. The studies stated that acupuncture therapies decreased the duration, distribution and intensity of itching. The conductors of the study, however, said that since the studies only involved low numbers of episodes or were single-case studies, they weren’t the kind of studies that can truly validate acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating itching. More testing and research are needed to prove acupuncture’s effectiveness.


In spite of the millions of Americans who get acupuncture treatments, very few cases of side effects have been reported. Acupuncture is considered to be a safe treatment although it can have adverse effects if it is performed by an inexperienced or untrained acupuncturist. The effects may include punctured organs due to improperly placed needles or poor sanitation. To guarantee safe care, you need to check the credentials of the acupuncturist and stop relying on a diagnosis from an acupuncturist who has no traditional medical training.


Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.