Let’s face it; acupuncture is an unfamiliar treatment option for many people. Coupled with its ancient beginnings and foreign feeling, many myths arise surrounding acupuncture. I’d like to take this opportunity to address some of the most common misunderstandings I’ve encountered with facts about this incredible system of healing.
Myth: Acupuncture is only good for treating pain.
Okay, it is true that acupuncture is a great option for treating pain conditions, but it’s also used for so much more. Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture has documented its usefulness not only in treating back, neck, knee pain and headaches, but also conditions such as nausea and vomiting, the side effects of chemotherapy, infertility, immune system problems, hot flashes associated with menopause, allergies, IBS and depression, to name a few.
Myth: Acupuncture only works because of the placebo effect.
Sometimes this myth is also expressed as, “You have to believe in acupuncture for it to work”. The truth is that there’s a whole lot more to acupuncture than the placebo effect. In fact, there’s scientific evidence that acupuncture triggers a number of healing physiological changes. It ramps up your immune system, balances your hormones (both sex hormones and those associated with stress), decreases inflammation and sends signals to your brain to release neurotransmitters that help relieve pain and produce a feeling of calm.
Many sceptics of acupuncture say that the relaxing setting under which acupuncture is performed causes patients to report that they feel better after a treatment. While the calming elements of an acupuncture clinic certainly help relax someone who is suffering, the science is clear that acupuncture works by producing physiological changes in your body.
Myth: Acupuncture is an ancient folk or Indigenous medicine that has no place in the modern world.
It’s true that acupuncture is an ancient system of healing. Folk or Indigenous medicine is based on tradition, and usually administered by members of a culture, and its practices are usually learned through complex community based educational systems. These practices are valid and continue in modern day.
Acupuncture is the subject of countless written texts and the focus of thousands of research studies throughout the world. Many prestigious institutions, including the World Health Organization, acknowledge the effectiveness of acupuncture. In addition, the practice of acupuncture is practiced literally all over the world with many countries updating and cultivating their own distinctive quality. This includes Japanese style acupuncture, auricular acupuncture that was developed by a French physician, Korean hand acupuncture, Vietnamese tendinomuscular style and Five Phase acupuncture that has grown in the West. In most countries, acupuncturists must be fully trained and pass a certification exam in order to practice acupuncture.
Myth: Acupuncture may have a negative interaction with my current medications, physical therapy or other medical treatments.
Acupuncture treatments won’t counteract other therapies that you may be undergoing. And it’s fine to have acupuncture while you’re going through physical therapy; in fact it’s likely to speed up the healing process. There are no known interactions between drugs and acupuncture, however if you’re on a blood thinner, you may experience slightly more bruising.
Myth: My doctor will disapprove of me having acupuncture.
While I can’t speak for the opinion of every doctor, it’s important to know that many western medical doctors themselves practice acupuncture and many large hospitals offer acupuncture to their patients. There was a time when doctors disregarded physiotherapy, and now it is practiced in most hospitals. Existing research reinforces the use of acupuncture for a number of health conditions, and in fact, many doctors are strong proponents of acupuncture and support their patients using it. I work with a number of doctors and other Western health providers who frequently refer their patients to me, including those who treat patients with infertility. I think that many doctors recognize that acupuncture can be a helpful therapy, especially when other treatments have failed. In many instances, when a doctor provides negative feedback on acupuncture, the chances are they’ve never tried it.
Myth: If you don’t feel better immediately after an acupuncture treatment, it means it won’t work.
Acupuncture is a system in which your body is stimulated to heal itself. How long that takes depends on each individual. Most will see results in a few sessions, but others may take eight or ten treatments. The beauty of acupuncture is that your practitioner will assess your progress during each session and adjust their treatments to achieve the best results.
Myth: Working with needles is the only kind of treatment an acupuncturist provides.
The reality is that acupuncture is only one kind of healing therapy under the umbrella that is traditional Chinese medicine. Your practitioner may also be trained to provide Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy, cupping, cold laser, moxibustion, bodywork and other therapies. In addition, in order to provide our patients with the most current treatments, at BodaHealth we also offer naturopathic and shock wave therapy.
The bottom line is that acupuncture is effective, evidence based and you don’t have to believe in it to see results. If you have questions about acupuncture in general or want to know if acupuncture is right for you, please give us a call at BodaHealth.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.