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Posted on 11-30-2016

Acupuncture: Medical Marvel or Mystical Myth

By Jo Nell Norcini, L. Ac., M.A.O.M

Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years; however, its debut into the United States did not occur until the early 1970s when President Nixon made a trip to China. He was accompanied by a journalist named James Reston, who had to undergo an emergency appendectomy while they were visiting the country. His appendix was removed using conventional methods, but his post-operative pain was managed with acupuncture.  He was so amazed at its effectiveness that he wrote an article about it in the New York Times, thus generating significant interest in our country.

Even though many Americans are interested in acupuncture, the fact that is has only been offered in the United States for approximately 45 years causes this modality to be shrouded in myths and misnomers.  I would like to dispel some of these at this time.

  1. Acupuncture is not real medicine – Acupuncture is real medicine. As mentioned before, it has been utilized by many eastern countries for thousands of years.  It originated in China and is a major part of their health care system.
  2. Acupuncture has not been scientifically proven to work – Acupuncture has been proven to work.  It is difficult to prove under the western model of a double blind study, but another scientific method is observation.  Acupuncture has been proven and documented to work for thousands of years through observation.
  3. Acupuncture only works for pain – Acupuncture works great for pain, but it is also effective for many other types of internal disorders.  The World Health Organization has recognized that acupuncture is an appropriate treatment for over 200 clinical conditions.
  4. Acupuncture only works as a placebo – Acupuncture may indeed have some sort of placebo effect; many pharmaceutical drugs have this effect as well.  The fact that acupuncture works on animals proves that its effectiveness goes far beyond the placebo effect.
  5. Acupuncture is painful – Acupuncture is not painful.  Let’s face it, nobody likes needles. The needles used in acupuncture are .25mm in diameter compared to a medical syringe which is 28.5mm in diameter.  You will feel a slight sensation, such as heaviness or achiness, but nothing like an injection.
  6. Acupuncture is dangerous and unhygienic – Acupuncture is perfectly safe if you go to a properly trained practitioner.  Also, a properly trained practitioner is required to be certified in “Clean Needle Technique.”  and only uses single-use disposable needles.
  7. All acupuncturist are created equal – Not so. A licensed acupuncturist in the state of Texas is required to have a Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  This is a four-year, year-round program, which includes clinical observation and an internship.  This is over 3,700 hours of training. They are also required to pass a four-part board exam that is administered by the NCCAOM.  Acupuncturists are licensed by the Texas Medical Board.
  8. Acupuncture and dry needling are different- Dry needling is a type of acupuncture.  The term was coined by some professions to bypass training and licensing.  Dry needling simply means that the needle does not contain a substance.  Many chiropractors and physical therapist practice dry needling, but they are not licensed acupuncturist!
  9. Acupuncturists have to be of Asian descent – Learning to be a good acupuncturist is not in your DNA. With proper education and experience, anyone can become a good acupuncturist.
  10. Acupuncture has side effects and will conflict with conventional medical treatments – The only negative side effect of acupuncture may be slight bruising.  It integrates well with other medical modalities.

From a western perspective, I realize that there is still a lot of mystery surrounding acupuncture and how it works.  Scientist need to be able to see and measure things before they believe, and as they once thought the world was flat and that bacteria and viruses did not exist, they will one day come to terms with the medical marvel that is acupuncture.

Please call me at 713-825-1636 or visit www.CypressAreaAcupuncture.com to set up an appointment.  My office is located at 9834 Spring Cypress Road, Houston, Texas 77070 in northwest Houston.

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