The many benefits of acupuncture in winter

Dec. 16, 2019

Interested in fending off a range of ailments from the common cold to the winter blues? Then you might want to consider adding acupuncture to your winter routine.


A man receives acupuncture in the area of his shoulder blades as there are benefits of acupuncture in winter.
Kelley McDaneld, an acupuncturist at UCHealth Integrative Medical Clinic in Steamboat Springs, says acupuncture in winter can help some people feel better. Photo: Getty Images.

Below, Kelley McDaneld, a licensed acupuncturist with UCHealth Integrative Medicine Clinic in Steamboat Springs, describes how acupuncture may be helpful for you during the long, cold months.

Immune system

Acupuncture has been shown for some individuals to boost the immune system, which helps prevent colds, the flu and other illnesses that are more common in winter months.

It works for some, in part, because acupuncture may increase white blood cell counts – specifically T-cell counts – which are an important component of the immune system, while also possibly decreasing inflammation throughout the body.

“One hypothesis for why that happens is that when the needles are inserted, you’re creating a little irritation that the immune system responds to,” McDaneld said.

Regular acupuncture may also prevent an illness from taking hold, especially when done 12 to 24 hours after the first sign of sickness.

Improving mood

“Acupuncture has been shown to increase endorphins in the body, and that naturally boosts your mood. It can increase the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which also help,” McDaneld said.

In Chinese medicine, mild cases of depression are attributed to a stagnation of “qi” or “chi,” also called the life-force or energy, and acupuncture may help get that qi moving.

Every individual reacts differently to acupuncture, so benefits may vary.

“It depends on the person,” McDaneld said. “Some people really respond, while others don’t as well.”

Decreasing stress

In traditional Chinese medicine, winter months are considered a good time to rest and let the body rejuvenate.

“The winter season in Chinese medicine is the time to slow down, to replenish your energy, to store up for the upcoming spring and summer months,” McDaneld said. “It’s not very often that people take an hour out of their day to mindfully rest. That really calms the nervous system overall.”

Decreasing stress not only helps you feel better, but it also decreases risk of illness.

“Stress depletes qi, or one’s energy stores, but by reducing stress, you’re more resilient and stress is less likely to take a toll,” McDaneld said.

If you decide to try acupuncture and are not dealing with a specific injury or illness, McDaneld recommends scheduling a session once a week for two or three weeks, then spacing sessions out further. It’s ideal to try acupuncture first when you’re well, so you and your practitioner understand how your body reacts to the treatment.

And don’t forget to find other ways to slow down and rest.

“People here tend to really push their bodies all seasons of the year, and they don’t tend to allow time for rest and rejuvenation. In the long-term, that can be detrimental,” McDaneld said. “It’s all about moderation and listening to your body. In the long-run, you’ll be able to stay active longer if you don’t overdo it.”

This story first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Dec. 2, 2019.


About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at