10 Common Myths About Acupuncture

8 Nov, 2022

Myth: Acupuncture is painful

The needles used in acupuncture are solid (as opposed to hollow) which makes them as thin as a strand of hair or cat’s whiskers. Because of the thinness, some people can’t feel them on insertion. Once the needle is inserted there is no pain. Sometime heaviness or dullness is felt. This is actually a good sign. It is called “de qi” and signifies energy or qi moving in that location.

Myth: Acupuncture is only used to treat pain

Acupuncture is well known for treating all kinds of pain from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain and hip pain to name a few. Aside from pain, acupuncture is also effective in addressing infertility, digestive issues, allergies, side effects of cancer treatments, headaches and pregnancy discomfort. Many fertility clinics recommend acupuncture as an adjunct to their treatments.

Myth: Acupuncture is outdated and not recommended

Far from being outdated, acupuncture has been proven in controlled trials to be effective for over 20 conditions. As a result, acupuncture is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for those conditions. These conditions include many pain conditions as well as morning sickness, hypertension, malposition of fetus, nausea and vomiting and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few. The WHO have gone even further to recommend acupuncture for conditions where therapeutic effect has been seen but more proof is needed.

Myth: Acupuncture interferes with medication or other therapies

Acupuncture is effective alone or as an adjunct to support other therapies. Acupuncture is commonly used to support IUI and IVF for fertility, to speed recovery from surgery, and to reduce nausea from surgery or chemotherapy.

MYTH: A doctors referral is needed for acupuncture

In MOST cases no referral is needed. There are some occasions where a referral might be needed. Some examples would be if you plan to use health insurance to pay for acupuncture and your insurance company requires it (which is rare), or if you are a veteran and use TriWest health insurance. A referral is required for TriWest to pay for the treatment. Many Veterans Administration doctors refer veterans out for acupuncture to decrease dependency on opioids for pain and for PTSD.

Myth: Acupuncture is not science based or evidence based

Scientists still aren’t quite sure how acupuncture works. As a result, there are more and more controlled scientific studies about how effective acupuncture is and how it works.

Myth: Acupuncture and dry needling are the same

Acupuncture and dry needling may appear to be the same but they are different. The practice of acupuncture involves viewing the body as a whole and deciding what organ or meridian may be the cause of the problem. In this case, a treatment plan is created to bring about healing by addressing the root cause of the problem. As a result, the treatment plan may not necessarily involve needles inserted into the area of pain. Dry needling is also referred to as trigger point needling. This type of needling involves inserting a needle into the area that is causing the pain. Dry needling is only used for pain whereas acupuncture can address a variety of issues in addition to pain.

Myth: Acupuncture needles are single use sterile needles.

Acupuncture needles are never reused. Once they are removed from the patient they are disposed of in a sharps biohazard container.

Myth: Acupuncturists don’t need to know your medical history 

Acupuncturists absolutely need to know your history. Acupuncture views the body as a whole system. When considering a treatment protocol the acupuncturist reflects on the history of the patient. The acupuncturist may ask you about conditions that have absolutely nothing to do with your current problem. For instance, if you are seeking help for back pain, you may be asked about your bowel movements or what you eat for breakfast, or how much energy you have during the day and what your sleeping habits are like. Your history gives a bird’s eye view of how your body functions. That helps the acupuncturist to create the right treatment plan for you.

Myth: Acupuncturists aren’t well trained and don’t know much about anatomy, chemistry, pharmaceuticals.

You might be surprised to know, in Colorado, to become an acupuncturist you are required to earn a Master’s degree. Required courses include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biochemistry, western pharmacology, and western nutrition in addition to many hours spent learning Chinese medicine.

Myth: You can’t tell if acupuncture is working.

There are many ways to practice acupuncture. One of the methods I use in my clinic is called Balance Method. I typically use balance method when a patient presents with pain. As I am inserting needles in specific areas I am expecting the pain to change. After I insert a few needles, the patient will notice that their pain is diminished or completely gone. Also, most people notice a sense of euphoria at the end of their treatment. This is because part of the treatment of acupuncture is to get the patient out of sympathetic dominance otherwise known as “fight or flight”. Creating a relaxing, quiet place encourages the patient to move into parasympathetic dominance, known as “rest and digest”. This is the time when the body can do the work of healing.

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