Over the past few years, acupuncture has seen a surge in popularity and social acceptance. Actress Drew Barrymore recently talked about what her acupuncturist told her about her tongue, which is one indicator that acupuncturists use to assess their patients. Despite all of the mainstream coverage, I regularly hear the same questions about acupuncture. This tells me that while people are showing increasing interest in Eastern medicine, it is still not widely understood. Here are some of the most common questions and misconceptions regarding my profession:
Acupuncture needles hurt. The needles used for acupuncture are much thinner than the needles used in Western medicine. They are hair fine and solid as opposed to the hollow needles used to administer vaccines and medications. For this reason, people generally do not feel discomfort when acupuncture needles are inserted. To the contrary, most people feel a profound calmness during an acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture only works if you believe in it. In my experience, those who are the most skeptical are also the ones who end up being the biggest fans of acupuncture after trying it. Having a positive attitude can be helpful in healing, but it is not a prerequisite. According to the National Institute for Health, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter the brain chemistry, which in turn affects immune responses, blood pressure, blood flow and temperature, and endorphin release (the body’s own painkillers). According to traditional Chinese medicine, it restores balance to the body’s vital energy force called qi (pronounced chee).
Acupuncture only treats pain. Acupuncture is very effective for all types of pain such as sciatica, neck pain, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, headaches, menstrual cramps, and much more. But the aim of acupuncture is to bring balance to the whole person, so it can be an excellent treatment for facial rejuvenation, weight loss, depression, insomnia, digestive problems, infertility, diabetes, and so much more.
Acupuncturists aren’t licensed medical professionals. Nothing could be further from the truth. In California, acupuncturists are required to complete a four-year graduate program before passing a state board exam. We are also required to fulfill continuing education units every year to keep our license current. Each state has its own regulation program for acupuncturists, but they all must take a state or national exam to practice.
Insurance doesn’t cover acupuncture. Don’t be so sure. Many insurance plans in California do have acupuncture coverage. I estimate that 90 percent of my patients today use their insurance to see me.
If you have any questions about what your insurance may or may not cover, or about how you may be able to put acupuncture to use, please don’t hesitate to ask. Between now and then, be well.