It’s always fun when I’m out meeting new people and someone asks me,
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m an acupuncturist,” I say.
This leads to one of 2 responses. The first one is “Cool!” followed by a story about how they, or someone they know, had acupuncture. These are usually great stories about healing their pain or other chronic issues.
The second type of response involves a sneer, an awkward silence, and the other person walking away.
I assume this comes from either fear of needles, doubts about “alternative medicine”, or just misunderstanding about what acupuncture is. Which is really too bad, because there are so many people who could benefit profoundly from receiving acupuncture treatments.
Here’s what I wish everyone knew about acupuncture.
1. It’s not all New Age-y Voodoo
Many explanations of acupuncture include phrases like “moving qi through your meridians” and “stagnant wood energy”. So I don’t blame you for thinking it sounds like woo-woo garbage. Which is why I do my best to use more concrete, logical language when describing what I do. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine have been around for more than 3,000 years, and hail from a very different culture than ours. So while that system and our own Western model explain the body’s functions very differently, they are both talking about the same human body.
I’ve been practicing this medicine for long enough to see it work over and over again. And Chinese medicine has been practiced, continuously, for longer than any other medicine on the planet – that’s a LOT of empirical evidence!
Over the past decade, numerous fMRI studies have been done on the effects of the brain during and after acupuncture treatments. One meta-analysis states “multiple studies reported that acupuncture modulates activity within specific brain areas, including somatosensory cortices, limbic system, basal ganglia, brain stem, and cerebellum”. They found that “acupuncture not only affects brain activity, but it also modulates connectivity in the brain”. Sounds pretty legit to me!
2. It’s for more than just pain
Of course acupuncture is great for pain. It makes sense that inserting a pin into a tight muscle band or knot can release it and ease pain. But there’s so much more potential there.
As we learned above, acupuncture modulates brain activity, so it really has a wide scope of effect on the body. It effectively treats anxiety, depression and insomnia. And it’s a star in the field of women’s health. This is one area where Western medicine really hasn’t progressed in a number of years. PMS, endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, cysts and menopause symptoms respond beautifully to Chinese medicine, no synthetic hormones needed.
I’ve also successfully treated allergies, sinus infections, colds/flus, digestive complaints and more with acupuncture. Since Chinese medicine is a complete system, it is designed to treat pretty anything. However, some practitioners may be better at treating some things than others, so if you tried acupuncture and it didn’t work, it may have not been the right practitioner for you or your condition. This leads me to my next point…
3. All acupuncturists are not created equal
Just like in any profession, we all bring our personality and life experiences to our career. Not all doctors are the same, neither are all teachers, contractors, or anything else.
Of course, we all get along better with some people than others, so it’s important to do your research and find a practitioner that resonates with you. It’s a relationship just like any other, and there must be respect and trust for it to work.
In addition, there are SO many different ways to practice acupuncture. Styles include traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Japanese acupuncture, Korean acupuncture, Sports acupuncture, Balance Method, Classical Chinese medicine – I could go on and on. On top of that, many acupuncturists learn several styles and combine them, using whatever works best for the patient on the table. No two acupuncturists will treat the same way, so keep that in mind if you ever need to find a new practitioner.
Another thing to consider is that some acupuncturists are using exclusively needles. Others bring in supplemental modalities like moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, herbal medicine, supplements, massage or health coaching. All of these modalities fall under the umbrella of Chinese medicine. So when you are researching for your perfect acupuncturist, be sure to note what else they might offer in addition to acupuncture.
4. Acupuncture is just one branch of Chinese medicine
As I mentioned above, Chinese medicine includes a whole host of modalities. Here are just a few:
-Qi Gong – a movement therapy sometimes referred to as “Chinese yoga”
-Moxibustion – an herbal heat therapy applied to the body
-Cupping – suction cups applied to the body
- Gua Sha – a scraping technique applied to the body
- Tui na – Chinese medical massage or bodywork
When we say that Chinese medicine is a complete system of health, this is what we mean. If someone was to work on his or her diet, move therapeutically every day, take a few tonic herbs, and live a balanced life, they wouldn’t ever even need acupuncture. And by using all these modalities synergistically, a real transformation of health can occur.
Elizabeth Allen is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of AcuMed Spa, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.