Facts and Myths About Acupuncture


Cameron Bishop DAOM, L.Ac
Copyright 2009

One of Oriental Medicine's greatest strengths is that it is a preventive medicine. Oriental medicine has a frame work to diagnosis a person's pattern of disharmony, and to make corrections through acupuncture, diet, herbs and exercise.

Facts and Myths:

1. Is Acupuncture Chinese?  Acupuncture is used throughout the Orient. There are Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean systems. In fact in each country there are various traditions but all have a common root. There are systems in France, England and throughout Europe, India and the Orient. The US lags behind in its integration of Eastern and Western modalities. Some of the oldest archeological evidence for acupuncture is in the middle east. Chinese Acupuncture was the first to be introduced in the USA, and therefore most American's have the concept that it is the authority on it.

2. Do you have to be Asian to do Oriental Medicine? Do you have to be French to be a good kisser? Or Swedish to do Swedish massage? American acupuncture will be coming to the forefront in this century as an eclectic open and innovative practice combining the best of many approaches. Acupuncture is operator dependent as are all practices of medicine.

3. Does Acupuncture have to do with charkas? Acupuncture is mostly a far eastern medicine, although its lineage can be hotly debated. The concepts of charkas are Middle Eastern and Indian, common in yogic traditions. There is no historical basis for acupuncture treating charkas, but that does not mean that the charkas are not being treated.

4. Does "Ki" or "Chi" mean energy? The concept of 気 is untranslatable into English. Its understanding requires study and conceptualization beyond our western cultural understanding. "Energy" is a poor translation and leads to many misunderstandings, but this is the best translation we can do at this point. It is a bio-energetic view of the human body rather than mechanical. Unshuld has a great defintion which is "The finest Matter that influences".

5. Is Acupuncture only for adults? Many children can be helped significantly with allergy, asthma, chronic colds and sports injuries. Be sure your acupuncturist is specially trained and has experience in doing Children's acupuncture. Japanese techniques are wonderfully gentle on children. I wish I had an acupuncturist as a child. It was not until I lived in Japan that I discovered that my allergies could have been helped.

6. There is no proof acupuncture works. Many years ago "white coated" western doctors went to China to demand proof. The Chinese doctors scratched their heads and thought "Well, this formula has been written down for four hundred years and my great great grandfather had been using it. I guess we can put something together for you guys". There are many studies out on the efficacy of acupuncture for many conditions. Its long history and continued use throughout the world's medical systems also is proof of its value.The modern explanation is that the simulation of acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system. 

7. Acupuncture will fix everything for me. A sincere fully-trained acupuncturist may do good work, but the result is not certain if the patient goes back to a lifestyle of self abuse whether it is diet, recreational, family or addiction. I have had patients achieve only partial results due to taking of too many medications, too much recreational drug/alcohol use, heavy smoking or poor diet choices. All "medicine" requires a patient to meet the physician half way. Some patients are too far damaged from life to realistically recover their full health.

The question is no longer if it works, but how to integrate it into the existing medical model. Most of the health care we have been learned is about symptom relief.

One of the important questions is "How does it work?". It is not magic. There is no rubbing of the hands of Mr. Miyagi to instantly cure Daniel-San's shoulder as in the movies, but rather Acupuncture helps the body heal it self faster and often better. If the body can quickly resolve the issue then it may appear as if it happened by magic. Sometimes acupuncture is adopted by health care professionals as another tool to relieve symptoms. They practice it as an incomplete medicine and the results are often disappointing.

To understand Oriental Medicine, we need to have a paradigm shift - one from expecting an outside influence (savior, perfect mate, knight, technology) to always save us to cultivating a viewpoint that which makes holistically healthy (intrinsic seeds of wholeness). Therefore, our health is dependent on what we do to our bodies. We don't make the rules, but to know and follow them prolongs and heightens our health.

At this point in the research and understanding, more and more medical professional have an acupuncturist on hand for referrals. Countless studies have been done by western medical doctors and scientists. It works, it has worked for thousands of years and its written literature spans 2000 years.