In my years studying and practicing acupuncture, I have found people often have confused or incorrect ideas about holistic treatments. Here are the 10 myths about acupuncture and massage I hear most often, and the truth.
Myth: Acupuncture hurts.
Truth: During an acupuncture treatment there is generally no pain. There are however sensations acupuncturists look for such as a dull ache, a radiating warm sensation, or muscle twitches. All these sensations are call “de qi” in Chinese and treatment is considered more effective when these feelings are achieved. It also depends on the practitioner. Some may not want to elicit this feeling therefore the patient does not feel a thing during a treatment. Others believe this is the best way to gauge the treatment and most patients feel this is helping with their healing.
Myth: Massage is just for relaxing.
Truth: Massage can be for relaxing if that is what you are looking for. It can also help heal injuries, relieve pain, and increase circulation of the lymphatic system and blood to help the body stay healthy. There are hundreds of massage styles; some techniques are functional rather than relaxing. They all are therapeutic but not all are relaxing. Sports massage for example is very active and used to help treat injuries.
Myth: An acupuncturist isn't a real doctor.
Truth: What is a "real doctor"? There are acupuncturists who have doctorate degrees. An acupuncturist is called a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner. An acupuncture license reads as Licensed Acupuncturist or L.Ac. Acupuncturists treat many of the same ailments and injuries as an MD, but instead of pills and pharmaceuticals they treat with herbs, massage, exercise and acupuncture. In China TCM practitioners are doctors with the full rights as an MD and work in hospitals and perform both Chinese medicine as well as Western medicine.
Myth: Acupuncture doesn't work.
Truth: There are over a billion people who will disagree with this statement. Acupuncture works by stimulation of key points on the body that elicit the body’s natural healing mechanism to activate. Most people who have told me that “I’ve tried acupuncture once” have not really tried acupuncture in my opinion. Acupuncture works on the body’s ability to heal. It is not an over night quick fix. It may take several treatments to achieve the full results.
Myth: It must not be real because insurance doesn't cover it.
Truth: California has the insurance widest coverage for acupuncture treatment. Almost every carrier covers acupuncture treatments. My patients are with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Kaiser, Sharp and American Specialty to name a few. Only federal insurance carriers such as Medicare, Medi-cal and Tri-care do not cover acupuncture treatments at this moment.
Myth: Acupuncture doesn't cure anything but pain.
Truth: Acupuncture can alleviate pain. Some cases it only take one treatment, but in my experience most people who have chronic pain need treatments on a regular basis to keep it under control. Under insurance, an acupuncturist can only treat pain and nausea. But acupuncture is successful with allergies, skin conditions such as rashes and acne, asthma, fatigue, stress and many others.
Myth: The results are all in your head.
Truth: It does help if you are open to receiving a treatment, but you do have to try acupuncture to see if it works for you or not. I have heard these blanket statements about acupuncture being "all in the head" from other health professionals and as well from people who have not experienced a treatment. This mostly comes from a state of ignorance about what acupuncture is and how it works. There is factual information that explains how it works to be found on the internet. Acupuncture is not a religion and does not need a belief in it for it to work. In old China before the communist revolution a doctor was only paid if the patient got better; acupuncture would surely have died out long ago if it did not work.
Myth: If you are using acupuncture don't tell your regular doctor.
Truth: Definitely tell your doctor, especially if it is helping your condition. Most doctors are open to trying alternative therapy although some will discourage you. I never understood why people would ask an MD about acupuncture treatments. They are not qualified unless they have studied acupuncture to make such statements. If you want to know about acupuncture then please ask a licensed acupuncturist about your condition to see if they can help.
Myth: I went once and I didn't get better.
Truth: Acupuncture is not a quick fix and sometimes effective treatment can take many months. Luckily most insurance covers a certain number of treatments per year; take advantage of this and get the proper amount of treatments as prescribed by the acupuncturist.
Myth: You can get Hepatitis C or HIV from the needles.
Truth: It is illegal for a Licensed Acupuncturist in California to re-use acupuncture needles. We can only use new needles and they come in a sealed packet. A licensed acupuncturist would know this. To be sure, observe the practitioner open a new packet before proceeding with a treatment.
The best way to learn more about acupuncture and how you might want to include it in your wellness plans is to visit a local licensed acupuncturist. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me at 858-272-4627 or visit our website: http://www.achth.com/
Geno Diveley, L. Ac. is co-owner of Acujin Holistic Therapies, located in Clairemont at 3670 Clairemont Dr., San diego 92117.