When the topic of acupuncture comes up, I often hear the same misconceptions. The idea of using needles to feel better seems out there to a lot of people. Because it’s such a strange concept, it’s easy to get the wrong idea. Let’s discuss some common acupuncture myths and set the record straight, once and for all.
Let’s bust some acupuncture myths
Myth #1: Dry needling is the same as acupuncture
You may have previously received intramuscular stimulation (commonly referred to as dry needling) done by a physiotherapist or chiropractor. Maybe you found it unpleasant because the needle went right into the core of the painful spot. While it works well for some people, it’s not ideal for everyone.
Acupuncturists are trained in intramuscular stimulation, but we also learn other methods to address pain without putting a needle into the sore spot. It’s always a good idea to mention previous experience you have with receiving treatments that involve needles. If you found your previous experience too painful, there are plenty of other options to address your concerns. Healthcare practitioners just want to provide you with the best treatment, whatever that may be in your particular case.
Myth #2: Acupuncture only treats musculoskeletal concerns
Most people I talk to seem to be aware that acupuncture is used for musculoskeletal concerns. But most of those people are surprised to find out that acupuncture is also used to address issues like menopause symptoms, dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), and dyspepsia (indigestion).
The scope of the conditions treated by acupuncture reaches far beyond the ones I’ve mentioned. If you feel that your condition would benefit from more help, don’t hesitate to book a 15-Minute Discovery Session at no charge to see if acupuncture is the right fit for you.
Myth #3: Acupuncture tries to replace medical intervention
Unfortunately, there is a misconception that acupuncture tries to replace allopathic medicine. Healthcare professionals just want their patients to be healthy, however that happens. Different types of therapies have different levels of success for different types of health concerns. If you’re having a heart attack, please don’t come see me. Go straight to the ER!
Acupuncture is a great add-on to medical care. It’s meant to be an extra tool in your toolbox, not the only tool. By combining multiple different approaches, you get to experience more benefits. I encourage my patients to continue to work with their physician. I’m really just looking to complement the existing care, not replace it!
In my case, I found it extremely difficult to put Crohn’s Disease into remission without medication, especially while experiencing any form of stress. However, once remission is induced, acupuncture can help reduce relapse rates. Accessing a combination of medical and alternative treatments tends to provide the best results.
Myth #4: If the concern isn’t resolved after one appointment, acupuncture didn’t work
Can you take just one pill and be cured of anxiety? Or go to the gym once and be jacked forever? If your answer is yes, please share your secret, because that’s incredible! But all joking aside, the same idea applies to acupuncture.
It’s important to remember that acupuncture isn’t surgery. It probably won’t have drastic enough effects to resolve an issue with one appointment. This is especially true if the issue you’re dealing with is chronic. Give it time, and be ready to commit to a few treatments. If you still don’t notice any changes after a few treatments, then it may be time to consider an alternative.
Myth #5: An acupuncture treatment always involves a ton of needles
How many movies have you seen where a character gets acupuncture at a spa, and they somehow end up with 30 needles in their face? While it’s possible that some acupuncturists treat in that manner, they are certainly not the majority. Unless you’re getting a treatment specific to your face, odds are that you won’t have more than a couple of needles in your face, if at all.
Additionally, a complete treatment doesn’t have to involve massive amounts of needles. Each practitioner treats differently, so this will vary from one person to the next. Personally, I like to keep most treatments under 10 needles, usually averaging 5-7 needles for adults. Once in a while, I add in a few more needles, depending on the technique I’m using.
However, treatments don’t have to involve needles at all! Sometimes, treatments can use other tools such as cupping and gua sha. Or, we can stimulate acupuncture points using a micro-current or a laser.
Myth #6: There is no scientific data to back up acupuncture
That there is no scientific data to back up treatments is one of the most common acupuncture myths I hear from skeptics. Studies using acupuncture to treat a wide variety of conditions have been conducted. Take a look at the studies cited above for just a few examples.
Due to the nature of acupuncture, it’s difficult to conduct studies with a control group receiving a placebo. It’s pretty easy to tell whether you’ve been needled or not. For that reason, control groups in acupuncture studies tend to receive sham treatments. These treatments are done on spots that aren’t acupuncture points. Some people tend to discount results of these studies because of the lack of a traditional control group. However, many studies show a statistically significant improvement in treatment groups, when compared to control groups receiving sham treatments.
Myth #7: You can take a weekend course to become an acupuncturist
In Ontario, Alberta, BC, Quebec, and Newfoundland, as well as in almost every state in the US, acupuncture is regulated. This means that there are laws in place to determine education and practice standards for acupuncturists. These laws exist to protect the people getting treatment.
In Ontario, to become a Registered Acupuncturist, practitioners must have studied a TCM program of a minimum of 3 years full time (or the equivalent of that, if studying part time). The program has to include a minimum of 500 direct patient contact hours in clinic. Graduating does not guarantee the ability to practice in Ontario. There are 4 national board examinations to pass. Once these exams have been passed, there is an application process that involves submitting a police check, along with a number of other documents. This ensure safe practice standards.
Hopefully I was able to clarify some acupuncture myths for you! Do you still have questions about acupuncture? If so, please book a 15-Minute Discovery Session at no charge, and let’s see how I can help you (in Ottawa).