As a complementary therapy, acupuncture is the subject of misinformation, myths, and stereotypes, especially from those people who have never had an acupuncture treatment. In this blog (and probably several others to come), I’d like to address some common misconceptions about acupuncture.
Myth: It hurts. This is frequently the topic that is on everyone’s mind before they have their first acupuncture treatment. However, anyone who has ever had acupuncture will tell you that it feels nothing like getting a shot or having blood drawn. There may be some sensation when a needle is inserted, but for the most part, acupuncture doesn’t hurt.
I have seen children and apprehensive adults in my clinic, who were concerned about having needles inserted into them. I have always let a needle shy patient try just one needle before they agree to treatment. In every single case, once I have inserted the single needle, their hesitation disappears. Most people say something like “That’s it? That’s nothing!” It really doesn’t hurt.
Myth: Acupuncture is just folk medicine that doesn’t really work. The truth is that acupuncture is far more than folk medicine. Folk medicine is a style of healing that is very regional in nature, is practiced informally, usually by lay members of a region or a culture. Its healing practices are usually not written, but instead passed on by word of mouth.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, is the subject of thousands of written works, some of them over a thousand years old. In addition, rather than being regional, acupuncture is practiced all over the world, with many countries developing their own distinctive style. This includes Korean Hand Acupuncture, Japanese style acupuncture, Vietnamese acupuncture, and Five Phase acupuncture that have become popular in the West.
The effects of acupuncture have been the subject of thousands of studies throughout the world. Many prestigious institutions, including the World Health Organization, the Mayo Clinic, and the National Institute of Health recognize the effectiveness of acupuncture on a variety of conditions.
Myth: Acupuncture is only good for pain. Okay, this is only a half-myth, because acupuncture is really effective in treating all kinds of pain conditions. However, acupuncture’s effectiveness goes far beyond just treating pain conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has compiled a list of conditions and diseases for which acupuncture has been shown to be effective. The list is extensive (and keeps growing) and includes conditions from allergies and insomnia to obesity, morning sickness, and whooping cough. Acupuncture is good for pain and much, much more.
Myth: If I have acupuncture, it should be performed by a doctor. There are some Western doctors who are trained to perform acupuncture. They typically have about 50 to 100 hours of specific training in acupuncture. You could also get an acupuncture treatment from your chiropractor, but that would be a little like having your acupuncturist perform a chiropractic manipulation after a few weekend classes. Chiropractors have about 100-200 hours of training in acupuncture (105 hours here in Minnesota). If you want acupuncture performed by someone who is proficient in acupuncture, go to a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.). Licensed acupuncturists are nationally certified and have roughly 3,000 hours of training in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, including about 650 hours in a clinic setting.