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Does Acupuncture Work? We Debunk 5 Common Myths

woman getting acupuncture

Are you considering trying acupuncture treatment? Right now, acupuncture is all the rage. However, this procedure is far from new. While it is hard to determine the exact moment in history when acupuncture was invented, many agree that it is approximately 2,000 years old. Initially, acupuncture was used predominately in Asian nations such as China. Americans first began to use acupuncture in the early 1970’s and the popularity and frequency of its use has continued to grow each year.

5 common myths about acupuncture

Still convinced that acupuncture is crazy or that it doesn’t work? Here, we dispel 5 common myths about acupuncture. 

It requires the use of painful needles

Sure, it does require the use of needles, but it is far from painful. Acupuncture is actually so relaxing that most patients fall asleep during an acupuncture session.  The needles are surprisingly thin and are often referred to as “pins.”  They bear no resemblance to the needles used for injections or drawing blood.  While there may be a slight pinch with the pin set-up, a deep relaxation typically occurs within minutes.  Frequent acupuncture-goers will tell you that the overall calming effect is different from other modalities such as yoga or massage.

It doesn’t work

While everyone’s results and experiences with acupuncture may differ, there have been countless studies that demonstrate the effectiveness. Here at Penn Medicine, we conducted our own research study with breast cancer patients that showed promising results. Often times, breast cancer patients are given aromatase inhibitors (AIs) for treatment that can cause severe joint pain as a side effect. This study showed that those who received acupuncture treatments while taking AIs noticed a strong decrease in the amount of pain they experienced. 

It’s a mystical form of voodoo

There is nothing mystical or magical about acupuncture. It is a clinical modality designed to help balance your body’s various interconnected systems. While it is not entirely clear how acupuncture works to heal the body, research continues to explore the possible neurochemical mechanisms of acupuncture’s pain relieving effects. This means that many believe that acupuncture works by stimulating a nerve in the body that then sends a signal to the brain to release pain relieving hormones including beta-Endorphins. These hormones can help suppress pain and increase your overall mood, happiness, and pleasure.

Becoming an acupuncturist 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 3 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 of 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. In order to keep their licenses and certificates, acupuncturists are required to attend many continuing education classes and to pass the National Board Licensure Exams.

Acupuncture is just for pain

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. On-site acupuncture at Penn Medicine offers you a convenient option to help manage these symptoms.

Hoping to get the most out of your acupuncture treatment? The relationship with your acupuncturist may be the key to success. Be sure to talk to multiple providers before beginning treatment so that you can be sure to choose the right one for you. The more experience your acupuncturist has and the more comfortable you are with them, the better your chance of a successful acupuncture treatment. 

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