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What You Don’t Know About Acupuncture

by Lisa Alvarez
acupuncture myths

There can be a lot of mystery and misunderstanding about acupuncture and how or why you can benefit from it. It’s likely that myths exist in our minds simply because we do not understand it. To us Westerners, acupuncture is literally a foreign concept.

It’s time to tackle some of these mistaken ideas, so that we can all experience how this form of medicine can not only heal, but also help us feel good, reduce the likelihood of taking prescriptions drugs and slow the progression of disease.

acupuncture myths

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The ancient Chinese knew it takes a holistic approach to keep healthy, feel good and heal quickly. Many people don’t realize that acupuncture is only one aspect of a complete medical system that is referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM originated in China over thousands of years. It includes diet therapy, herbal therapy, qi gong or meditation, feng shui, exercise, tui na (medical massage) and acupuncture. Thus a visit to the acupuncturist often includes recommendations for lifestyle changes and other Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities to help you feel better faster.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion and manipulation of extremely fines needles at specific acupoints on the body to stimulate and balance the body’s natural energy flow. According to TCM theory, our health is maintained when this energy flows freely. When we experience stress, or discomfort, or pain, that’s a signal we are out of balance and something is amiss. A visit to a licensed acupuncturist can help your body reset – leaving you feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and centered.

My friend tried acupuncture once and it didn’t work.

You may have the belief that acupuncture doesn’t work because you or someone you know tried acupuncture once and didn’t feel any different after treatment.  Everyone responds to acupuncture at a different rate. Chronic conditions often take longer to experience an appreciable change. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect and requires a commitment to the process – much like going to the gym: You are not in shape after just one visit.

Do I have to believe in Acupuncture for it to be effective?

Acupuncture is not a religion, nor a supernatural phenomenon. You don’t need to “believe” in it to experience its benefits because there’s nothing to “believe in.” The ancient Chinese understood that proper function and flow throughout the body is essential for it to work correctly. Therefore acupuncture is merely a way to enhance the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients that our bodies need to release pain, heal and thrive.

Will acupuncture interfere with my doctor’s care?

Acupuncture is effective not only as a stand-alone medical system but as an adjunct therapy because it treats the body as a whole. This unique approach can help relieve symptoms of disease, side effects of medication, and stimulate the body’s own healing abilities aiding- recovery and supporting your physician’s course of treatment.

I don’t need acupuncture. I’m not in pain.

It’s well known and documented that acupuncture is great for treating any type of pain. However, pain is just one of many ailments for which acupuncture can provide relief. Acupuncture can effectively treat the symptoms of stress, insomnia, allergies, anxiety and many other health disorders and concerns. But, acupuncture is also beneficial for overall health and wellness. It can help complete your regular wellness program to take you to the top of your game.

Acupuncture hurts. Plus, I am afraid of needles!

The needles acupuncturists use are very different from the needles we are used to seeing at the doctors office. Acupuncture needles are small, solid, flexible and extremely fine – no thicker than a strand of hair. They penetrate the skin without breaking it like a hypodermic needle. When accurately inserted into acupoints, acupuncture needles produce little to no sensation for the patient. Once the needles are in place they may produce a feeling of heaviness, like a dull ache. Since this sensation is unfamiliar for most people who have never had acupuncture before, it’s commonly described as pain because we don’t have any reference or word to accurately describe the sensation. If you are prepared for this dull feeling you will be less tense and less anxious about your first acupuncture experience.

All acupuncturists are created equal.

When choosing an acupuncturist make sure the practitioner is a L.Ac. – Licensed Acupuncturist. L.Ac.’s have 3-4 years of acupuncture, TCM, and biomedical education and clinical training. They must be state licensed and national board certified in order to practice.  Training for doctors and other health care practitioners that may practice acupuncture or forms of acupuncture often have 300 hours or less of training and very little to no clinic experience.


lisa alvarezLisa Alvarez has been a licensed and board certified acupuncturist since 2007. She earned her master’s degree in Oriental medicine at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago, graduating with honors, and her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Beloit College. Along with Rebecca Christy, Lisa established Healing Foundations in Chicago, Illinois, to offer a full range of time-tested traditional Oriental medicine treatments and techniques.

Featured photo by marniejoyce

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