Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years but it is still a recent addition to the way we try and heal ourselves. Recently we’ve heard about Andy Murray using acupuncture to help with pain and recovery before Wimbledon. And also about Claire Nasir as she was going through fertility issues.
But even if acupuncture is better known now than it was 10 or 15 years ago, there are still lots of myths surrounding acupuncture. Here is a top 5 of the most common myths about acupuncture.
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1- Acupuncture needles hurt!
This is possibly the most wide spread misconception about acupuncture. That acupuncture hurts in the same way that it hurts when you have an immunization or you have your blood taken.
The reality is very different. I have talked about acupuncture needles and how thin they are before and the reality is that when needles are inserted, most people will not feel more than a little prick.
However, it would be wrong to say that people will not feel anything at all. Once the needle is in, the acupuncturist will adjust the needle gently. Some people will then feel like a heaviness, a dull feeling around the needle. Some report a ‘ticklish feeling’ and others a strange feeling that they can’t quite describe.
Whatever the feeling, this is one of the signs that acupuncture is starting to have some effect on the body.
2- Acupuncture works only if you believe in it.
Another way to say that is that acupuncture is only placebo effect.
Well it is true that for any therapy, including using drugs such as ibuprofene, having a positive attitude will make a difference.
However, research has now shown that acupuncture is much more than that. We now know that acupuncture has some effects on hormones levels, it affects the brain in specific ways and alters blood flow. We also know that it can help for some specific conditions such as arthritis, nausea, headaches and migraines or back pain.
3- Acupuncture is not rooted in science
Well there are two parts in this question. First of all, now that we have some research available on acupuncture, we know a lot more about the effects of acupuncture on the body and we are starting to have a good idea of how well acupuncture is doing for different type of conditions. Based on that, the WHO has actually listed some conditions that can be helped with acupuncture here.
But most of all, in the history of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, we know that Chinese doctors actually conducted very thorough and meticulous investigations on the body (including dissections etc…), on illnesses and on the effects of treatment on the patients. Many stand up very well to our modern scrutiny despite the fact they have been written more than 1500 years ago.
A good example is the description, in the 6th century, of diabetes in terms not dissimilar to the ones we would now find in modern biomedical textbook. Around the same time, another doctor recommended the use of pig’s pancreas to control the disease, which we still use nowadays.
4- Acupuncture is only good for treating pain.
Well yes acupuncture is good at treating pain. Back pain is probably what it is the best known for but also headaches and migraines, arthritis etc…
However, acupuncture can do much more than that. It can be an excellent treatment for nausea, anxiety and depression, stress, fertility issues, support during IVF or cancer treatment, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms amongst others.
The reason is that acupuncture works on the whole body and aim to re-establish balance. You will find more about acupuncture as holistic therapy here.
5- The effects of acupuncture are only short lived
This is actually a worry for quite a few people. They are afraid that to sustain the effects, they will need to carry on getting weekly treatments for the rest of their lives.
The reality is that how long it will take to get the desired results vary greatly depending on the person and the condition. Most people will see some results within 5~6 treatments.
Whether you want to stop there because you reach your goal or whether you decide to continue using acupuncture as a preventive treatment (something that the Chinese doctors were strongly recommending) is then up to you.