Acupuncture Myths Debunked
Updated: Jun 23
Many people are hesitant about acupuncture because of the needles. Just the thought of one tiny needle entering our skin is enough to make us cringe, so you can imagine that the view of several needles makes us feel even worse. But if you can put your fears aside and weed through the myths, there are a lot of benefits to acupuncture. We'll cover things such as how do you know if acupuncture is working, the acupuncture benefits and risks, and the myths of this treatment.
Acupuncture is Painful and Uses Needles That Hurt
Because acupuncture involves needles, many people perceive acupuncture as being very painful. It is not because the needles are so tiny, and they are strategically placed to relieve pain, not cause it.
Each needle is placed in a specific spot on the body based on what the acupuncture is treating. Many people go to an acupuncturist to treat a specific illness or pain that they are experiencing.
Acupuncture Doesn't Work. It is not Proven Scientifically
Acupuncture isn't simply a form of voodoo science. Many medical professionals from around the world have endorsed this technique. It has been shown to improve the physical health of the body and relieve pain. Even though it is a thousand-year-old custom, it was once employed for medical purposes.
So you may have always wondered, "how does acupuncture work scientifically" or "how does acupuncture work to relieve pain?" Our nervous system tells the brain where an injury is in the body and how much it hurts. The brain can act to relieve that pain by releasing enkephalins, which dull the painful sensation. This system is not perfect, however. If the nervous system is transmitting weak signals, the brain cannot accurately determine the location of the pain. This renders it unable to respond properly and can lead to chronic pain.
In other scenarios, the brain can overcompensate for an injury by restricting blood flow to the affected area. It does this in case the wound is losing blood, reducing the volume of blood sent to the wound site. While this protects the body, it can be detrimental to the health of the affected area. The blood carries the body's self-healing substances, which means that the blood flow affects the healing process when restricted.
Acupuncture benefits us by stimulating the body's nerve pathways, helping signals to reach the brain, and activating self-healing and enkephalin release. The effect can be immediate, and repeat sessions can enhance and strengthen natural pain relief, re-establishing neurological homeostasis. Meanwhile, the brain releases normal blood flow to the affected area, stimulating healing.
Acupuncture is far from a placebo effect, and there have been many double-blind studies performed on acupuncture to showcase the healing benefits of this medical treatment. Also, acupuncture has been shown to work in trials with children, animals, adults, and more.
Not only have we seen kids that have no knowledge of its effectiveness see improvement, but in advanced studies on animals where full physiology can be examined during treatment, scientists discovered that acupuncture could reduce nausea, pain, and more, even in extreme situations.
Of course, acupuncture should always be performed by a qualified practitioner, and in order for acupuncture to be effective, a few sessions may be required depending on the symptoms that a person is experiencing. Through scientific trials as well as overwhelming patient responses, we know that acupuncture is not a placebo.
Acupuncture Is Only for Pain Relief
A common myth involving acupuncture is that it only alleviates physical pain, but that is not true. It is true that acupuncture does wonders for pain management. However, acupuncture has been shown to reduce other side effects and conditions, including headaches and migraines, depression, nausea, stress, anxiety, and gynecological conditions as well. Acupuncture can help treat migraines, allergies, nausea, joint pain, and even insomnia. It has many benefits and can provide long-term relief for many of these conditions.
Acupuncture has also been used for many years to help with weight loss. Many people go through multiple treatments to help decrease their appetite, which ultimately leads to them losing weight. While it may not be practical for weight loss, it does help with weight management and holistic health.
Acupuncture Cannot Be Used as a Complementary Therapy
In nearly all cases, Acupuncture is a safe, effective complementary therapy. Assembling a team of practitioners who offer a variety of services is a great way to support healing and, in some cases, speed recovery. For example, Naturopathic treatments or Chiropractic adjustments often yield longer-lasting results when paired with Acupuncture. If you're unsure, talk with an Acupuncturist and your other health care providers about a coordinated treatment plan.
Acupuncture Has Side Effects and Is not Safe
A common misconception about Acupuncture is that due to the numerous needles being used, it can cause many side effects or scarring. But Acupuncture has only a few short-term side effects. Most risks involving Acupuncture are low and typically include soreness, minor bleeding, or bruising where needles were inserted.
Some people assume that the needles used in Acupuncture can cause permanent scarring. The tips of the needles are so fine that they do not leave any marks behind when removed. The reason why risks are so low is based on having a certified acupuncture practitioner. And the needles used are always single-use and disposable medical-grade needles. They come pre-packaged in sterile packaging and are immediately discarded after use.
Acupuncture Can Cause Permanent Scarring
There are some people who assume that the needles used during acupuncture will cause permanent scarring on their bodies. The points of the needles are so fine that they do not leave marks when they are removed. There are times when minor bleeding will occur, but the hole will close quickly, and the bleeding will be minimal.
Acupuncture treatments, when done correctly, leave no scars. However, if you have scarring, it's probable that you were treated with the wrong needle size. Acupuncturists are taught precise needle methods to avoid causing discomfort and scarring on patients.
Acupuncture Is Not Recommended When You Are Sick
In addition, acupuncture actually helps to reduce symptoms of sickness such as nausea, fever, sneezing, running nose, and others. This is because acupuncture has been found to help boost the immune system, as well as be used as a preventative measure during the cold and flu season.
You Need to Be on An Empty Stomach for the Treatment
People commonly assume that you should go to an acupuncture appointment on an empty stomach. They are worried that it will make them feel nauseous if they go to the procedure after eating. While you should not go to the appointment completely stuffed because you'll feel uncomfortable, you should not go when your stomach is empty either. It could lead to you feeling lightheaded and woozy when you get up.
A small breakfast should be consumed at least 2 hours prior to your session, according to acupuncturists. Just make sure it's not a large dinner, so you don't feel uncomfortable throughout the process. You must also refrain from not eating. It affects your body in the same way that any other activity or operation does, so it's better to avoid becoming lightheaded. Always grab a bite before the procedure.
Acupuncture Requires No Training
This myth couldn't be further from the truth. In order to become an acupuncturist in the United States, you must attend at least three years of graduate school. The graduate school programs typically include studies in Asian bodywork, nutrition, practice management, ethics, needle technique, acupuncture points, and western medicine.
However, the work requires far more than just memorizing passages from a textbook; students will also be required to undergo several hours' worth of clinical experiences allowing them to learn acupuncture in a hands-on way.
Once you complete your degree and become a certified acupuncturist, your work still is not done. To keep their licenses and certificates, acupuncturists are required to attend many continuing education classes and pass the National Board Licensure Exams.
Many healthcare professionals will recommend acupuncture as a course of treatment and even provide referrals. With organizations like the United States military utilizing acupuncture in their recovery programs and top sports medicine facilities doing the same, acupuncture is not an alternative treatment.
Health care professionals around the world are starting to see the benefits of acupuncture, and this means that many doctors are recommending this form of treatment as a means to deal with a wider range of symptoms. More and more studies are being published every year that validate treatment claims on acupuncture. Today, people are referred to acupuncture professionals to help them with their allergies, fertility, pain management, nausea, depression, and more.
Not only did many private physicians see the benefits of acupuncture, but major health authorities like the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization recognize acupuncture as a valid treatment. The national institutes of health, for example, have funded many different clinical research trials for acupuncture treatment, and it is this level of research and funding that is opening up new discoveries from this medical treatment. Acupuncture is not only a recognized form of treatment, but it's slowly becoming a more recognized form of treatment for a growing number of conditions.
Acupuncture Requires a Doctor's Referal or Prescription
For most patients, a doctor's referral isn't necessary, but a lot of people do learn about acupuncture from their doctor. Sometimes patients find their way to acupuncture through word-of-mouth. Guidelines vary by state.
In Ohio, for example, you don't need a doctor's referral or prescription for acupuncture, but a physician should perform a diagnostic exam for the condition you plan to treat. It's important you seek out a qualified and licensed acupuncturist before starting any course of treatment.
You Need Multiple Sessions for Best Results
Many people assume that Acupuncture only provides relief while the needles are in place. Acupuncture was originally designed to relieve tension within the body and provide peace and wellbeing. Those feelings of wellness do not disappear the moment the needles are removed from the body. Many of the disorders that can be treated with Acupuncture may take multiple treatment sessions. Most patients may begin to see results after 2 or 3 sessions, while others may take longer. Depending on the intensity and type of pain being suffered, a specific treatment plan will be recommended determining the length and frequency of treatment. However, most people see instant pain relief, while others may take a few sessions. The point is that an acupuncturist will design personalized sessions based on the severity of your pain or other symptoms.
The response to acupuncture is always an individual one. Some people with acute and minor issues respond quickly — within one, two, or three treatments. Others need a course of eight to 10 treatments to see a notable improvement. Acupuncture's effects are cumulative, building with each treatment. People think that acupuncture is a one-stop-shop, which is not for the majority of complaints that we see. It's more of a process, not one treatment.
Once we've reached goals with resolution or management of a condition, we can wean you from treatment. Our goal is always to get you independent from the treatment while enjoying sustained benefits. That could be no follow-up necessary for one person and follow up every couple of weeks or months for others with chronic conditions.
Some people think they can go to an acupuncturist and get treated right away. The acupuncturist will sit down with you and find out what is going on in your life. They will ask about your family history to see if there are any factors affecting your health and make sure that you are a good candidate for acupuncture. If you are not a good candidate, the acupuncturist will let you know why it is not a good choice for you and give you suggestions on a better option.
Learn More About Acupuncture Services from Natural Care Chiropractic
If you are having difficulty managing pain or other health issues, you may consider trying acupuncture. Natural Care Chiropractic offers personalized, safe, and effective acupuncture treatment options to help you feel better and decrease some of the symptoms you're experiencing. Our practitioners have a diplomate and post-doctorate study in acupuncture and certification in dry needling.
Give acupuncture a chance. It's a painless and minimally invasive treatment option that releases blocked energy to promote healing and treat acute or chronic pain. Schedule an appointment with us and learn about what we can do for you.