Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used in the Far East to both maintain and regain health for the last few thousand years. Today, more and more Westerners are using acupuncture and herbal formulas for a variety of health conditions. However, even with the growing popularity of this medicine in the West, a fair amount of misconception, and even skepticism, still remains regarding the safe practice and efficacy of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Let's take a look at some of the myths surrounding Oriental Medicine and try to debunk them.
"Acupuncture is painful."
It is true that acupuncture uses needles, placed at very precise locations in the superficial layers of the body, to both strengthen the body and alleviate symptoms. However, these needles are very, very thin. In fact, up to 40 acupuncture needles can fit inside the tip of a standard 18-gauge hypodermic needle (the kind used for injecting into muscle). I practice Japanese acupuncture, which utilizes even thinner needles than the typical practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and relies on subtlety of technique and concentration of the mind rather than aggressive needle manipulation. You may experience a slight pinching sensation, similar to a quickly-fading mosquito bite, heaviness, or warmth at the site of insertion, but pain is very minimal.
"Acupuncture is only used to alleviate pain. It can't do much for anything else."
While acupuncture is certainly very useful in alleviating pain, including joint pain, headaches, sprains and strains, etc., this is not its only function. Acupuncture can treat virtually any condition that you can think of, from allergies to infertility. Pain can exist in the body for a number of reasons, with overuse and injuries to the muscles and related tissues being only one. When there is imbalance and dysfunction inside the body, pain or discomfort on the outside is often an initial indicator that treatment may be needed. For a more complete list of conditions that the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture fit to treat, click HERE.
"Acupuncture doesn't work. I tried it once."
This is a big one. The truth is that there are numerous factors that will determine how many treatments an individual will need, including how long the problem has been going on, their age and overall health, their lifestyle (are they perpetuating the condition on a daily basis?), etc. Chinese medicine is built upon a philosophy of preventative maintenance, and taking care of ourselves at ALL times, even when we do not have any obvious symptoms of disease. In other words, it is easier, and makes more sense, to keep the body and mind healthy, than it is to fix it once something negative occurs. The number of treatments needed will vary greatly from case to case. Generally, it is best to receive a treatment one or more times per week at first. Then, patients often maintain a once-per-week or every other week treatment schedule for several months. Finally, most will come in once per month, or even once or twice per season, in order to sustain their health and well-being.
"Acupuncture and herbs will conflict with my prescription drugs, physical therapy, or other Western medical care."
Chinese medicine is very useful as a medical intervention in its own right, and nowadays it is commonly used to alleviate the side effects of many modern medical treatments, such as those brought on by antibiotic use, cancer treatments, etc. Chinese medicine excels at adapting to meet the exact needs of the patient as they change from day to day. These changes may in part be brought on by the use of Western medicine, such as the soreness and swelling that occurs after knee surgery, coughing due to the use of certain types of blood pressure medications, etc. Acupuncture and herbs are safe and effective complements to modern Western medicine, and no cause for concern should exist if they are administered by a licensed acupuncturist and/or Chinese herbalist with the proper training.
"I can't afford acupuncture or herbs."
I have found that many people make this assumption without actually researching the costs and considering their options. At first the out-of-pocket cost may seem like a lot, but consider what you are investing in: your physical health, mental clarity, and emotional stability, to say the least. Also, compared with the price of surgery, recurring medication refills, and other costs of illness, acupuncture is quite affordable. An acupuncturist's rates are set according to a number of different factors, especially rent, student loan debt, and malpractice insurance costs. Every effort will be made to ensure that patients can receive the treatments that they want and deserve.
"Lots of different medical practitioners offer acupuncture, such as chiropractors, physical therapists, and medical doctors."
The term "acupuncture" as it applies to Oriental Medicine is specifically practiced by either licensed acupuncturists, often designated as L.Ac., or by licensed Oriental Medicine practitioners, designated as LOM. These healthcare professionals complete a three to four year master's level degree at an accredited college, focusing on the fundamentals of Oriental medical philosophy and its application, Western medicine, and clinical work. They have completed at least 1,490 hours of clinical and classroom training in acupuncture and biomedicine, as well as 2,050 hours of clinical and classroom training in Chinese herbal medicine. Chiropractors, physical therapists, medical doctors, etc. who advertise that they practice acupuncture in their clinics may have went through a minimal amount of training in acupuncture, but their education is usually nothing more than a series of weekend seminars spread out over the course of a couple of years, and totaling no more than 200-300 hours. Additionally, a lot of their training is allowed to be done in the format of online recorded lectures. Only an L.Ac. or LOM is trained with the depth of knowledge necessary to practice authentic acupuncture and herbal medicine as a healthcare system based upon the laws of Nature, and as practiced in the Far East for centuries. Other practitioners who treat patients using needles are simply, and often aggressively, treating musculoskeletal tightness, and are not considering the interrelationships among organs, emotions, senses, etc.
Acupuncture For Back Pain
When I was in graduate school studying acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, I remember the school clinic distributing an article to the students that listed the most common reasons patients came to us for treatment. Back pain was at the top of that list. Below is a link to an article that summarizes several others that have studied the use of acupuncture for treating back pain. The results speak for themselves. Take a look.
Say Farewell to Low Back Pain with Acupuncture
This page is intended to serve as a source for links to blogs and articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that both new and returning patients may find informative and/or entertaining. It is also where I will share information about the history, principles, and benefits of this awesome medicine.