It's intrinsic to the human condition to fear those things we don't understand. Furthermore, it's totally reasonable that as Westerners we view acupuncture and Eastern medicine with skepticism.
As a Registered Acupuncturist, my goal is to find and address the root cause of a symptom. In the same sense, I would prefer to answer questions regarding acupuncture and get to the root of the skepticism, instead of letting those fears dismiss a deeply powerful and effective medical system.
The first misconception I'd like to address involves the needles we use. I love to ask people if they've tried acupuncture before, and for those that haven't, by far the most common answer is "No, because I'm afraid of needles".
When we hear the word needle, we are often transported back in time when some poor nurse had a rough time finding a vessel to draw blood, or when that vaccination really stung and our upper arm hurt for days after. Acupuncture needles are very much UNLIKE the hypodermic needles we are most familiar with. They are EYELASH THIN and can slip through the skin unnoticed. Almost every new patient has incredulously commented, "that's it?!" (To be fair, some cause a pinching sensation or a feeling of pressure, but this quickly dissipates).
Another myth I clearly remember, came from a classmate in my UBC chem class who stated with smug confidence "Acupuncture is all placebo". Well, this is almost another article in itself. Regardless, my favourite way to dispel this myth is by directing the naysayer to search "Tilly-acupuncture miracle" on Youtube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRF57KOaUw8). Spoiler alert: a sweet little pug, paralyzed due to a brain injury after being hit by a car, is saved from being euthanized due to treatment with acupuncture. Clearly this animal had no preconceptions about acupuncture, and didn't need to "believe in it" to work. Plain and simple.
The third misconception I feel important to address is: "I have tried Acupuncture once and it didn't work". As in any profession, not all acupuncturists are created equal. My recommendation would be to see a Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac) as they will typically have a Bachelor's Degree plus 3-5 years of Acupuncture-specific training. However, we must also consider some other factors at play.
I like to use the analogy of putting out a campfire. Depending on the size and how intense the fire is burning will determine the length of time needed to put it out. You can't just stomp on it once and expect the fire to be extinguished. Furthermore, if you stop too early, it will slowly but surely light back up again. Chronic issues especially will often take longer to solve and may require frequent visits in the beginning. In other words, you don't go to the gym then quit when you don't leave ripped after the first day, right?
The human body is an incredible machine, and by design it has the innate ability to heal itself. Poor lifestyle habits, stress and trauma can diminish this ability, and acupuncture is an excellent way to remind the body what it is supposed to do when it strays off track.
What are your thoughts, fears, or doubts around acupuncture? I'd love to know!!
Alyssa Huang is a Registered Acupuncturist at Elements Wellness Centre in Kitsilano.
Alyssa graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology, and continued her studies at the International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Vancouver. She has since studied Constitutional Facial Acupuncture with Mary Elizabeth Wakefield in New York, Mei Zen Cosmetics Acupuncture for Face, Neck , and Abdomen with Martha Lucas, and Topographic Acupuncture with Dr. Bruce Ferguson. She has a special focus in treating neck pain and any facial concerns.
Besides an acupuncturist, Alyssa is a mama, and a partner/wife/teammate. She has a love of great design: clothing, architecture, art. She has a weakness for a good quality dark chocolate, and a steadfast craving for travel.
Connect with Alyssa Huang:
Facebook: Alyssa The Acupuncturist