Following thousands of years of success in China, acupuncture's efficacy has been confirmed by the United States National Institute of Health. Despite this scientific verification, several myths remain. A few of the most concerning are highlighted below:
1. Acupuncture is painful.
The first thing most people ask when considering acupuncture is: "Does acupuncture hurt?" This fear is understandable, but the needles used for acupuncture are only slightly thicker than a human hair. Trained acupuncturists take great care to ensure that these needles do not cause pain. In most cases patients find it so relaxing that they even fall asleep during a treatment.
2. Acupuncture is outdated folk medicine.
Acupuncture has been around for a long, long time, but that doesn't make it outdated. Several recent studies indicate that acupuncture is an effective solution for many common health complaints from anxiety to chronic back pain. One significant meta-analysis study of 17,922 patients concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.
3. Only private practitioners offer acupuncture.
As acupuncture continues to gain recognition as a viable treatment modality and alternative to many costly and addictive pharmaceutical treatments that are mainstream in the West, it will more frequently be applied in large hospital settings, as well as in smaller, more intimate interdisciplinary clinics. Many Pacific College graduates already work in hospital settings from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, as well as in integrative, interdisciplinary clinics across the country.
4. Acupuncture is purely an Eastern practice.
This healing method originated in ancient China over 3,000 years ago and from there expanded into Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Middle East and Europe. Since then, acupuncture has become firmly accepted in the West. So much so that on July 22nd, 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics proposed the reclassification of acupuncture from “a new and emerging Profession,” to a unique, defined occupation with its own code. The proposed code is in the category of “Diagnosing and Treating Healthcare Practitioners”, which is the same category in which physicians and surgeons are classified.
5. Acupuncture is expensive.
Acupuncture can be surprisingly affordable, both in the short and long-term. It is used to prevent a wide array of chronic health conditions, which between drugs, standard therapy, and hospital visits, could otherwise be quite expensive. Insurers are increasingly demonstrating a willingness to cover acupuncture, although some will only do so if other therapies prove ineffective. Each of Pacific College’s on-site clinics has inexpensive rates and also offer discounted treatments to seniors and active/retired/dependent military members.
6. Acupuncture merely treats acute physical pain.
Although acupuncture is most commonly known for treatment of pain disorders, it is also effective for many other health conditions, including mental/emotional health concerns. In addition to safely and effectively treating acute and chronic pain disorders, satisfied patients have also reported success with acupuncture treatments for anxiety, depression, infertility, insomnia and allergies to name a few.
7. Acupuncture is a placebo.
Many skeptics attribute the benefits of acupuncture to the placebo effect. In doing so, they discount the growing scientific evidence that backs up acupuncture as a valid treatment.
8. Patients can easily get addicted to acupuncture.
While patients tend to be very enthusiastic about acupuncture and its benefits, there is little documented evidence of addiction. However, for some patients, a regular treatment schedule may be needed in order to enjoy long-term symptom management.
9. Acupuncture is unhygienic.
The fear of needles sometimes has little to do with associated pain, and instead, is sparked by hygiene concerns. Some skeptics believe that acupuncture needles transfer illnesses from one patient to the next. In reality, acupuncturists use sterilized, individually packaged, single use, disposable filiform (not hypodermic) needles for all patients. Each needle after use is then properly disposed of in a sharps biohazard container exactly the same as those used in hospitals. The risk of infection from an acupuncture needle is extremely low.
10. Acupuncture works miracles.
Acupuncture can significantly improve health if used correctly as prescribed and performed by a qualified licensed practitioner; however its efficacy may be limited if not used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. To enjoy the full benefits of acupuncture, patients may be encouraged to follow prescribed dietary and lifestyle modifications, which may include eating a more balanced diet, regular exercise, in addition to some activities that may mitigate the negative impacts of stress such as yoga, tai chi or massage.
Acupuncture can promote quick self-healing and long-term wellbeing. It may not be a preferred solution for all of life's ailments, but if you can separate fact from fiction, you'll know when to turn to acupuncture as an effective alternative to traditional treatments.
Arch Intern Med. 2012 Oct 22;172(19):1444-53. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654