Finding the proper treatment is essential when experiencing ongoing pain, whether from an injury or a chronic illness. The go-to options are typically acupuncture or chiropractic. If you need help deciding which professional to visit, learning about the benefits of both approaches can help.

Chiropractic and acupuncture are often conflated as part of the same holistic, natural medicine family. While they both have non-invasive healing origins, their distinctions run much deeper. Chiropractic focuses on a patient’s neuromusculoskeletal system—the bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. By improving its capacity to perform, chiropractors argue that spinal adjustment and realigned joints will enhance the functioning of other systems in the body.

On the other hand, acupuncture is a method of Traditional Chinese Medicine that believes the body has around 2,000 acupuncture points linked by channels that allow the energy to flow through the body. If this energy is disrupted, it can lead to many illnesses. Acupuncture triggers the muscles and sensory nerves, usually by inserting tiny steel needles into the skin. As a result, the body releases its existing painkillers and feel-good chemicals while relaxing the nervous system.

If you are interested in furthering your understanding of the differences between acupuncture and chiropractic, this guide will help you, so keep reading!

Chiropractic vs. Acupuncture: What’s the Difference?

While both chiropractic and acupuncture are known as effective solutions for pain management, there are many differences regarding the treatment approach, the conditions treated, and safety and effectiveness. Below we will give you insight into the main differences between acupuncture and chiropractic.

Treatment approaches

Chiropractic uses a hands-on approach to examine, diagnose, and treat patients. One of the most common forms of chiropractic treatment is spinal manipulation to restore the mobility of the joints.

Chiropractic treatments are a great alternative to those traditional pain relief options. These treatments are ideal for patients experiencing back, neck, and joint pain. After a treatment session, some patients have felt soreness or pain in some areas of the body. However, many of these ailments dissipate after 24 hours.

Acupuncture, on the other hand, focuses on stimulating specific points in the body, usually by inserting thin needles into the skin and then manipulating them by hand or using electrical stimuli. This is done to improve the flow of the body’s energy (QI) and release feel-good chemicals and painkillers, thus promoting natural healing. Acupuncture can be more suitable for people whose bodies are unable to take the often-strong pressure and for those who seek an effective technique for relaxation or detoxification of the body.

One of the most significant benefits of acupuncture is that it is safe, provided your acupuncture session is undertaken by a well-trained professional. Additionally, most patients find acupuncture a painless, relaxing experience that leads to a healthier life.

Conditions treated


Acupuncture treats various conditions, from carpal tunnel syndrome to fibromyalgia and tennis elbow. It can also boost the immune system, improve respiratory health, relieve insomnia, and reduce stress while providing emotional balance. Additionally, acupuncture can help those recovering from illnesses, injuries, or surgery heal faster.

On the other hand, chiropractic treatments are primarily recognized as a possible option for patients experiencing neck, back or joint pain, headaches, and neuromusculoskeletal problems. The most significant advantage of chiropractic treatments is that they are non-invasive, drug-free, and incredibly effective in treating various conditions.

Effectiveness and safety

Chiropractic tends to emphasize rehabilitating injuries with stretches and exercises. It can help in:

  • Improving neck pain
  • Reducing reliance on pain relievers
  • Easing back pain
  • Relieving headaches
  • Improving posture
  • Reducing scoliosis symptoms

On the other hand, acupuncture is preferred to relieve the discomfort associated with different diseases and conditions. It is an ideal approach for reducing stress and improving blood flow. This technique has several therapeutic benefits, and depending on the health concern you want to treat, there are several options to choose from. Its effectiveness is best seen in the following:

  • Improvement in your sleep
  • Improvement in your digestive system
  • Balanced emotions and mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced back and joint pain
  • Headache relief
  • Improved eye health
  • Enhanced mental clarity
  • Improved immunity
  • Increased energy
  • Relief from allergies, etc.

When performed by qualified practitioners, both these procedures are generally safe. After acupuncture, you might experience mild, short-term side effects such as pain in the places where needles were inserted, bleeding, or bruises. However, you’ll most likely be back to normal the next day!

Insurance coverage and cost


Some public and private insurance plans may cover specific acupuncture treatments. For instance, chronic low-back pain is now covered by Medicare Part B (no more than 12 acupuncture sessions). However, acupuncture is relatively cheaper compared to other treatments, and here at the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM), first visits start from $40. 

Acupuncture is rapidly becoming recognized by states as a necessary medical benefit that must be covered by private health insurance offered there. Some private insurance companies that offer discounted or free coverage include Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, and more.

Chiropractic is part of most health insurance plans, including major medical plans such as Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, and United Healthcare. However, it is essential to mention that though these companies cover chiropractic care, their coverage may be limited and come with restrictions like:

  • A referral from your primary care physician
  • A cap on how many times you can receive treatment within a month or year
  • In-network or approved chiropractors
  • Having an active care plan and following it

The Bottom Line

One thing to remember is that both acupuncture and chiropractic are alternative healthcare sources employed to help with pain relief. While chiropractic is suggested if you have neuromusculoskeletal issues, acupuncture is mainly preferred for managing pain.

When it comes to chiropractic vs. acupuncture, choosing between the two really comes down to which you are most comfortable with or which your physician recommends. Those who lean towards acupuncture and want to learn more about the procedure, contact us for more information. And if you wish to experience the benefits of acupuncture first-hand, book an appointment today!