When most people think about acupuncture, they often envision the unpleasant act of being repeatedly pricked and prodded with needles. With that said, according to NYU Langone Medical Center, more than 10 million acupuncture treatments are administered annually in the United States alone. The lasting popularity of acupuncture treatments showcase the fact that there may be quite a few misconceptions about what this holistic procedure actually is.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, which originated in China, is the belief that in order to be truly healthy in body and spirit, there must be a balance of energy flow within your body. This energy flow, called ‘qi’, is said to flow through pathways, called meridians, which are reachable through acupuncture points in your body.
Alvaro Toledo, A.P., who is a licensed acupuncturist at Gainesville Acupuncture and Holistic Medicine, said that some people think that acupuncture is some type of ancient torture, where your body gets covered with needles from head to toe. “In reality, acupuncture needles are very small, about the size of a cat’s whisker,” Toledo said. “The amount of needles used is kept to a minimum depending on the number of symptoms being addressed.”
Similarly, to Toledo, some acupuncturists use neuroscience to explain how acupuncture works. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, when a small needle is inserted into these acupuncture points, which contain nerves, muscles and connective tissue, this stimulates the release of the body’s natural painkillers and affects areas in the brain involved in processing pain. Elizabeth Jammal, who is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and works at Floating Lotus Therapeutic Spa and Health Center, said people typically generalize acupuncture as an energy medicine because they don’t understand the depth that acupuncture physiologically effects the body.
“Acupuncture is seen as an energy medicine, where there is lines of energy because people think about the meridians in bodies, as in the different channels in the bodies to be based on an energy flow but in terms of physical effects on the body those energy lines are known to correspond with a very physical tissue in the body like the nervous system and the vascular system so I guess people don’t know it actually can interact with the physical body in terms of effecting anywhere from like the cardiovascular system all the way to the endocrine system to the neurological system,” said Jammal.
How can Acupuncture help you?
In 2003, the World Health Organization shared a list of conditions that have been proven to improve with the treatment of acupuncture. The list included conditions such as high or low blood pressure, sprains, rheumatoid arthritis and morning sickness. The WHO also stresses that, “only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended.” There are numerous studies that have been done, which prove the benefits of acupuncture, however, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health also admits that studying acupuncture can be challenging due to results being biased due to a person’s beliefs and expectations about their treatment or from their relationship with the therapist.
Ultimately, there have been relatively few complications from using acupuncture, and those that have were due to the use of nonsterile needles, which both Gainesville Acupuncture and Medicine and Floating Lotus Therapeutic Spa and Health Center stress that they follow strict precautions when using needles. If you feel that you would benefit from trying acupuncture, it’s important that you speak with your doctor and find a reputable, licensed acupuncturist who is heavily trained in what they do. Jammal, who was pursued to become a licensed acupuncturist, due to wanting to offer a more holistic approach to healing in a very certified, licensed and legitimate way, also stresses that it’s important for new patients to get to know their acupuncture physician before the procedure.
“I would recommend asking a provider if they offer a free consultation. These days, you can do it different ways, through zoom or an online practice like telemedicine,” said Jammal. “I think if somebody makes a connection with the acupuncturist that is really helpful.”
*Always check with your doctor before starting acupuncture treatments.