• FAQ Page

    Things to consider

    Myths and Facts

    A Message about "Dry Needling"


    I am often asked, "How does acupuncture work?" Though I follow the rules, methods and teachings of Chinese medicine, including Five-Element, Yin/Yang, Meridian, Zang-Fu (organ), pulse diagnosis and other basic traditional teachings and methods, when it comes to western medicine or modern medicine we simply don’t know how acupuncture works in measurable western scientific terms. There have been several thoughts on this from a variety of sources and theories have arisen from decades of testing, but in truth, what we “know,” but find difficult to measure, is that acupuncture appears to:

    • Have a regulatory effect generally. Raising some brain chemicals, hormones, etc. when they need to be raised and lowering others when they need to be lowered. This is done, most likely, by stimulating the natural innate knowledge of our bodies – our innate drive towards homeostasis or “balance.”
    • Offer a calming effect generally. We all have heard about the detrimental effects of stress and stress related hormones. Acupuncture appears to offset these reactions in the body not only calming the person temporarily but possibly protecting the person from damage from stress over extended periods of time.
    • Has a reducing effect on inflammation locally and throughout the body. Certainly in pain cases it appears that acupuncture reduces inflammation and promotes healing. Modern research has shown detrimental effects of chronic systemic inflammation (fibromyalgia, parkinson’s, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) and acupuncture’s ability to treat these conditions must in some way be related to offsetting these systemic responses.While we can observe these changes and theorize about them based on clinical experiences we still do not have a “how” with acupuncture. For now, as practitioners, it is important to stay firmly rooted in the thousands of years of Chinese Medical history, theory, and techniques of application. And, as others have done before us, to work to extend and “perfect” these theories as we mature as practitioners. For the public, this is a crucial reason why acupuncture should only be performed by fully trained acupuncturists who have the theoretical backing to properly apply acupuncture. As you may know, in some areas people from other medical fields (MD’s, DC’s, etc.) are allowed to practice acupuncture with little or no training. While many of these practitioners may have the medical knowledge to not hurt someone with acupuncture they rarely have a grasp of the deeper theories of the medicine which will lead to inferior results in many cases. Perhaps more importantly for the field, they will not be as able to share their experiences as practitioners because they do not speak the “language” of Chinese Medicine.
      So, for now, just know that acupuncture does work on a broad range of cases but you will see differences from practitioner to practitioner, from style to style, and what works one time may not work another time. There is no fault in exploring various practitioners as a patient and various styles of acupuncture as practitioners and patients. Communicating with your practitioner about what felt most effective or what didn’t feel right is useful as we are all explorers to some degree in this medicine. Knowing that we all want the same thing from this vast array of theory and techniques – that is to be well – it is an exciting journey. So while I cannot tell you exactly how we are going to accomplish health in precise western terms, a strong root in the long history of this medicine can certainly help to get us there.

      Above article taken from https://yinyanghouse.com/acupuncture/how-does-acupuncture-work


    Myth: Acupuncture is dangerous and also painful.

    Fact: There is no pain. The individual may feel a tiny prick upon insertion of the needle. Sometimes the individual does not feel the needle at all. In some very rare instances there can be a little bruising at the point of insertion. There is no tissue damage as a result of insertion generally as the needles used in acupuncture are very hair like and they have a rounded point and are solid. Unlike in the hypodermic needle the acupuncture needle does not have a cutting edge. There is no actual danger as doctors use single use disposable needles.

    Myth: Acupuncture needles can transfer diseases like AIDS and hepatitis from individual to individual.

    Fact: Generally individuals are given their own set of needles. In the United States the use of disposable single use needles is a standard practice. Therefore there is no risk of these diseases being transmitted.

    Myth : Acupuncture is only good for treating pain.

    Fact: It is true that pain responds very well to acupuncture. Low back pain, sciatica, neck pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches and other kinds of pain may all be treated successfully with acupuncture. But because the aim of acupuncture is to bring balance and harmony to the whole person, it can also be an excellent treatment for insomnia, fatigue, digestive problems, menopause, menstrual disorders, infertility, MS, Lupus, and a supportive treatment for patients with cancer, Hepatitis or HIV.

    Myth: Only Chinese or Asians can practice acupuncture because it is of Chinese origin. 

    Fact: This is not so. The ability to learn and practice anything does not depend upon you racial background. In the United States alone most of the acupuncture practitioners are not Asian.

    Myth: Allopathic physicians (medical doctors whose treatment are counteractive methods for injury and disease) do not endorse acupuncture neither do they believe in it.

    Fact: This was perhaps true about 25 years ago. Today there are at least 3,000 acupuncture certified physicians.

    Myth: In acupuncture the four-needle technique is used on every patient for sedation.

    Fact: TThis technique is used in very rare and extreme instances only. This technique is generally not used more than twice in one year. Sometimes the energy of a patient virtually gets stuck; it is then that the four-needle technique is used as a last resort.

    Myth: It is best if a physician (MD) performs acupuncture.

    Fact: Physicians have a very limited training in acupuncture. To be a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture they only need 200 hours of training. Of these 200 hours clinical training is only about 80 hours, which is the requirement. When you consider licensed acupuncturists they have several years of training. Therefore it is best if you go for treatment to a licensed acupuncturist who has more experience.

    Myth: Acupuncture is not widely used nor is it officially recognized in the United States. It is widely used only in third world countries.

    Fact:This is not so as over 30 states in America officially recognize or register the practice of acupuncturists. Of these 30 states 22 register, certify or license acupuncturists for their own practice.

    Myth: The need for acupuncture does not exist today.

    Fact:Acupuncture is widely used today. It often prevents the use of cortisone, painkillers and surgery. Studies have shown that about 61% of patients who were treated with acupuncture after being paralyzed as a result of a stroke showed great improvement.

    Myth : Acupuncture only works if you believe in it.

    Fact:While keeping a positive attitude will probably help you get well, how and why acupuncture works is not so simple. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), studies have shown that acupuncture seems to affect the body’s immune reactions, blood pressure regulation, blood flow and temperature, and may aid the activity of endorphins (the body’s own painkilling chemicals) and immune cells "at specific sites in the body". While most clinical studies on acupuncture do note that even "sham acupuncture" (in which a needle is not inserted or not inserted into a non-acupuncture point) seems to have a small therapeutic effect on the body, study participants who receive "real" acupuncture treatment consistently do better than those in the control group or those receiving conventional treatment.

    Myth : Acupuncturists aren’t licensed medical professionals.

    Fact:This may have been true 35 years ago when acupuncture first became available in the U.S., but today acupuncture is a licensed, regulated profession. A Google search of "acupuncture in hospitals" reveals acupuncturists on staff at a number of hospitals across the country. To be licensed in most states, acupuncturists must complete a 3 to 4-year graduate program in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and pass a series of national certification exams. Like other professionals, to maintain our licensure, we must add to our knowledge with continuing education, maintain national board certification and adhere to a strict code of medical ethics.

    Myth: My insurance won’t cover acupuncture, so I can’t afford to try it.

    Fact:Don’t be so sure about that! Where I practice, there has been a sudden increase in coverage for acupuncture treatment and there is currently a bill in congress (HR646) that would allow acupuncture to be covered by Medicare. Many acupuncturists offer discounts for seniors, students or for multiple treatments purchased at once.


    Dry Needling??

    I have heard about "Dry Needling," is that acupuncture?

    Lately, some physical therapists and chiropractors have been using a technique that they call dry needling. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this issue because the PTs and DCs say that this is not acupuncture, when in fact it is.

    ​What a PT or DC is doing when they do "dry needling" is ONE of many acupuncture techniques. This particular technique is called "Ah Shi" needling (pronounce 'ah shure') and it is done on what we call "muscular tendon meridians." The reason people think it is not acupuncture is the fact that when not trained in the full scope of acupuncture and Chinese medicine their understanding of acupuncture is greatly limited.

    One argument is "we don't use qi" - but in fact, they get a muscular twitch when the muscle is stimulated. We would consider that one of the 'qi responses'.

    Another argument is "we don't use the meridians" - but in fact they are using the "muscle tendon" meridians. Meridians include "primary," "luo," "muscle-tendon," "divergent," and "extra-ordinary" meridians. Just because you are not using "primary" does not mean you are not using meridians. Those who are fully trained in Acupuncture are aware of all of these meridian systems and dry needling uses the muscle-tendon meridians.

    Also, besides using meridians, acupuncturists use acupuncture zones and microcosm systems such as "hand acupuncture," "auricular acupuncture," "scalp acupuncture" and even more. None of these technically uses "meridians" but they are ALL ACUPUNCTURE. 'Dry needling is again, just one type of Acupuncture technique.

    Another argument is "we don't use acupuncture point" - again, acupuncture points come in a variety of types: There are "primary points" (the 360 body points you would see on the average acupuncture chart), "Extra" points - which have names, but are not part of the primary mapped out system and we have "Ah Shi" points (any point on the body that elicits pain when palpated is, by definition, an "ah shi" point. "Ah shi" roughly translated means "That's it" i.e. "that's the point." "dry needling" is an acupuncture technique which uses ah shi points on the muscular-tendon channels; points that are associated with pain.

    The problem that Licensed Acupuncturists and Doctors of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine have against PTs and DCs doing 'dry needling' is the fact that they are DOING ACUPUNCTURE WITHOUT FULL TRAINING. In fact, they are, in essence, first semester acupuncture students who are practicing on the public with NO SUPERVISION and MINIMAL TRAINING.

    I highly doubt you would want to go to a practitioner who has only had one semester of training. By saying, 'one-semester', I am seriously being lenient, many PTs and DCs who practice 'Dry Needing' have around 24 hours of training in acupuncture. A class semester in Chinese medicine colleges is 72 hours. it is no wonder that incidents of pneumothorax (collapsed lung) have risen exponentially from needle related injuries since the 'dry needling' sessions started.

    I highly suggest you avoid anyone who says they do 'dry needling' and get treatments instead from a fully trained Licensed Acupuncturist.