Acupuncture Myths Busted!

 Acupuncture may not be part of a religion but this Buddha is gorgeous.

Acupuncture may not be part of a religion but this Buddha is gorgeous.

With a tradition that stretches back thousands of years and reaches across continents and cultures it really isn’t surprising that a few myths about acupuncture have erupted over the years.  Let’s set the record straight.

 

1. It’s ancient folk medicine and no one would recommend it.  Well, the ancient part is true.  Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been practiced in Asia for over 2000 years.  It’s enjoyed widespread popularity in North America for the last 40+ years.  Acupuncture is recommended by the World Health Organization and the National Institute for Health among others.

 

2. It hurts.  All right we can understand where this idea comes from: years of vaccinations and blood work have taught us to avoid the unpleasant poke of needles whenever possible.  But acupuncture needles are not the same as hypodermic needles.  They’re a fraction of the size.  These super-fine, sterile, single-use needles feel more like a mosquito bite (without the itch) than a needle.  We recognize this is still a big hurdle for some people which is why we offer the first treatment for free.

 

3. The needles pose a risk of infection.  Nope.  The needles are sterile, single-use only.  Some myths are just plain false.

 

4. It’s part of a religion.  This is also false and probably stems from a cross-cultural misunderstanding.  It’s true acupuncture has a different way of viewing the body and what causes illness.  We emphasize that true health means being balanced and well in your body mind and spirit.  But there are no specific religious beliefs associated with acupuncture.  Western medicine historically was only concerned with the body’s health.  Only more recently with the advent of psychology have they admitted mental health is also important.  So far Western medicine hasn’t acknowledged the spirit, mainly because they can’t measure it...yet.  Maybe someday they’ll catch up :)

 

5. The only people who use acupuncture are into “new age” stuff.  People from all walks of life and various religious and cultural backgrounds use acupuncture.  In fact, in 2014 the government of Canada recognized that millions of Canadians were seeking acupuncture treatment and decided to add acupuncture to the list of services exempt from HST/GST.  Yay Canada!

 

6. It conflicts with mainstream treatments or care.  Although we always advise you check with your physician before starting any new health care practice, acupuncture is a holistic, natural approach that won’t interfere with any drugs your doctor may have prescribed.  Acupuncture can “complement” or be used in addition to the care you are already receiving.

 

7. You need a doctor’s referral.  This might be true, but it depends on your insurance provider.  Some require a prescription while others do not.  Please check with your insurance company first.  For a list of insurance companies we can bill directly see the Acupuncture page.

 

8. It’s expensive.  Most insurance companies cover acupuncture.  How much will depend on your insurance company and your particular plan.  Please check with your insurance company first.  For a list of insurance companies we can bill directly see the Acupuncture page.  For a list of our prices see the pricing page.

 

9. It’s only a placebo effect.  First a placebo effect describes a situation where there is no real benefit other than the belief that it works.  Acupuncture is not a placebo effect.  It will work whether you believe in it or not.  The reason this myth persists is because it’s impossible to design a double-blind study for acupuncture - the gold standard in research methodology. Although we recognise that some studies have begun to use laser acupuncture as a form of double-blind procedure, it's our opinion that this isn't "true" acupuncture because it doesn't puncture the skin and therefore the effects and results observed from those studies can only hope to be correlational at best. 

However, acupuncture has been shown to work for children and animals both of whom would have no “beliefs” about its effectiveness.  

 

10. It doesn’t work because we don’t know HOW it works.  It’s true Western medicine has had a difficult time recognizing something as intangible as Qi can have such a huge impact on our health.  Scientists must be able to see it and measure it for it to be “real”.  Yet the effects of Qi are very real.  Western medicine has instead largely decided to ignore the issue of Qi and focused on acupuncture points which stimulate nerve bundles and connective tissues, increase circulation, release endorphins and increase white blood cell activity.  

But finally Western medicine is starting to discover what acupuncturists have known for centuries.  That Qi exists within the body and science is finally uncovering the physical structures on which energy meridians flow, though only beginning to understand their function and potential.  It’s been called Bonghan channels after the scientist who first demonstrated their existence and renamed the Primo Vascular System since.  Research is still in its infancy (and therefore highly disputed) but if our best guesses about the potential hidden in the Primo Vascular System are true the possibilities are exciting!  Read more in this article.

 

11. Once you start you can’t stop!   Or if it doesn’t work in 1 -2 treatments it won’t work for you.  These are two sides of the same coin.  First acupuncture isn’t Pringles you can stop any time you like.  It isn’t addictive or habit-forming and actually is often used to treat addiction.  

Not everything can be fixed in 1 or 2 treatments.  Have some people noticed a dramatic improvement in symptoms after a couple of treatments? Yes.  For most of us does it usually require more than a couple of treatments?  Yes.  So what does a standard course of treatment look like?  Read about it here on the Acupuncture page FAQ #9 because frankly this article is getting way too long.  And I’m amazed you’re still hanging in there - thank you.

 

12. It’s only used in treating pain.  Also not true.  According to the World Health Organization acupuncture has been proven effective for the following conditions.

 

  • adverse reactions to radiation/ chemotherapy
  • allergies
  • correcting the position of a fetus
  • dental pain
  • depression
  • dysentery
  • facial pain
  • frozen shoulder
  • headache
  • high blood pressure
  • induction of labour
  • knee pain
  • leukopenia
  • low blood pressure
  • morning sickness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • neck pain
  • pain from gallstones
  • pain from kidney stones
  • painful menstruation
  • peptic ulcer (also chronic gastritis and gastrospasm)
  • post operative pain
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • sciatica
  • sprains
  • stroke
  • tennis elbow

 

For a further 63 conditions the WHO says acupuncture has demonstrated therapeutic effect for but needs further research check out this PDF.


 

We hope this has cleared up some of the most common acupuncture myths floating around these days.  Is there one we missed that you think should be added to our list?  Hear a wacky rumor you’d like put to rest?  Contact us, we’d love to hear from you!

 

(705)878-5054  or mcolavecchia@acupuncture-works.ca