Actually, acupuncture needles are completely solid (no “hole” in the middle) and are about the size of what they would use on a newborn in the hospital – approximately the width of a human hair. The most you should normally feel from an acupuncture needle is a little pinch – similar to someone plucking an arm hair, as one patient put it.
Myth #2: You need to believe in it for it to work/it’s just placebo
Two points are worthy of consideration here: First, acupuncture works on animals, and animals are not capable of placebo (at least as far as I am aware). Second, most people don’t realize that in order for a drug to be approved by the FDA its placebo effect has to be less than a certain percentage – in other words, you can’t ever really get away from placebo, whether it’s drugs or acupuncture. (And finally, I’d just like to add that what we casually dismiss as “placebo” is actually an amazing process in the human brain that nobody has figured out well enough to harness…)
Myth #3: The needles go into the nerves
Ouch! No they don’t! If they did, you would jump off the bed. And in fact, it’s not even how they work – they do affect the nervous system, but they affect many other systems too. There are numerous theories on how acupuncture works, but none of them has hit the nail on the head yet.
Myth #4: It isn’t appropriate for Christians
This myth is derived from the fact that acupuncture is practiced in Asia, where there are Buddhists and Hindus and Taoists and all sorts of other spiritual traditions – so the assumption is that it is anti-Christian (incidentally, there are also Christians in Asia). The myth is also derived from the fact that acupuncture has its roots in Taoist philosophical ideas that were applied to the human body and questioned through experience – the practice of Taoism itself has nothing to do with acupuncture. There are many Christian acupuncturists, just as there are many Buddhist/Taoist/Hindu/etc doctors.
Myth #5: You can’t donate blood after having acupuncture
This comes from lack of education and assumption that acupuncturists are using “dirty” needles that could contaminate blood. The needles used in acupuncture are single-use, disposable, sterile needles, and acupuncturists are trained and certified in clean needle technique just the same as other practitioners in the medical field.
Myth #6: The needles are coated with a drug/medicine
This comes from the idea that something so “simple” couldn’t possibly work. Acupuncture needles are just that, needles – actually, they shouldn’t be called needles either, as they aren’t hollow at all. Acupuncture works by affecting the energy flow of the meridians, or energy pathways, in the body; it doesn’t need drugs/medicine to make it work.
Myth #7: It’s only good for pain
Completely unfounded. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control addressed this decades ago. Acupuncture is good for a wide variety of conditions in addition to pain, including anxiety, menstrual issues, menopausal issues, gastrointestinal issues, addictions, tinnitus, neuropathy, other nerve-related conditions, stroke sequellae, and much, much more.
Myth #8: You can’t have acupuncture if you’re on a blood thinner
Can you have blood draws if you’re on a blood thinner? I hope so, since that’s the way they check whether the blood thinner’s working. Acupuncture needles are much, much smaller than needles used for blood draws, and acupuncturists are trained extensively in needle technique. Of course, it’s important to let your acupuncturist know you’re on a blood thinner, but that would be covered in your initial intake and medical history.
Myth #9: It’s Chinese voodoo
If so, then Medical Boards across the country are involved in it, as they are the ones who license acupunturists. A licensed acupuncturist studies three to four years at the master’s level and has 3000 hours under their belt before sitting for their national boards and pursuing licensure. A good portion of their studies is in Western (modern) medicine, and in some states licensed acupunturists can serve as primary care providers.
Myth #10: Acupuncture and dry needling are the same.
Not so at all. Dry needling is a physical therapy modality that is the needling of trigger points using acupuncture needles. Dry needling is based on Western theory, not acupuncture theory. It can’t treat a headache or arthritis or digestive pain or anything other than local musculoskeletal pain. That said, it can be effective for the treatment of local pain. It just isn’t acupuncture, not by a long shot. (The training is also significantly different; around 50 hours for physical therapists as opposed to 3000 for licensed acupunturists – because PTs aren’t studying acupuncture, they are learning needle techniques for trigger points, which doesn’t take 3000 hours.)
Bonus Myth: “I tried acupuncture once for back pain and it didn’t work.”
This is heard often by acupuncturists and is extremely frustrating. First, not all acupuncturists are the same. Second, not all patients are the same – acupuncture is a holistic modality that sees you as one person, unique, individual, different from everyone else and even different from yourself from day to day; who you are today is not who you are tomorrow, and just because you didn’t respond to acupuncture before, by another person, doesn’t mean you won’t respond the next time. If you took an aspirin for a headache and it didn’t work, you probably wouldn’t dismiss aspirin for the rest of your life.
I hope that clears some things up for some of you! I wrote this in a spirit of lightheartedness, but there is also seriousness to it too. Please help educate others that licensed acupuncturists are educated and trained professionals, and that acupuncture isn’t voodoo, it doesn’t hurt, and it does work!