The truth about acupuncture

The ancient Chinese medicine has become popular across the western world.
The ancient Chinese medicine is gaining in popularity.

Acupuncture has had a long and sometimes controversial history in modern medicine. For years, many branded it as ‘voodoo’ medicine; something that was all in the mind and didn’t really make a difference when it came to managing real health issues and alleviating pain.

The ancient Chinese method divided medical experts into believers and sceptics. While some hailed its benefits and swore by its healing effects, others claimed it was nothing more than a placebo.

Then, about 12 years ago, a groundbreaking study from the University of Southampton’s Complementary Medicine Research unit found categorically that acupuncture does indeed work.

The study caused Western medical experts to sit up and take notice and acupuncture became increasingly popular with patients looking for alternative ways to manage pain and stimulate the body.

Vice president of Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) Waveny Holland says the method can be used to treat a range of injuries and ailments and that despite the fact someone is inserting needles into your body, it is rarely painful.

“It is the insertion of very fine single-use sterile disposable needles into acupuncture points to balance the flow of qi (pronounced chee) – the Chinese word for energy,” she says. “Most people will report a feeling of relaxation after an acupuncture treatment and an improvement in symptoms.”

Acupuncture focuses on using the body’s qi – or energy – to stimulate certain points and clear out blockages to allow the energy to flow correctly. As strange as it may sound to some, our body is made of much more than blood, bones and muscles and acupuncture focusses on these differences.

Pressure points are targeted to hone in on certain areas to treat the cause of the problem as well as the symptoms.

So how will you know if it works for you? Holland says it’s not a matter of if, it simply does. “Acupuncture works. It’s not a case of will it work for me. It was the main medical model used in China for centuries, acupuncture was and still is used to treat the variety of medical conditions that affect people.”

She says acupuncture can be used to treat all kinds of pain and numerous studies have found it can help in other areas, like fertility and menopause, too.

As with most kinds of medical treatments, there are risks involved, but with acupuncture, they tend to be minimal. Some patients will experience minor bruising around the area where the needle was inserted, or a small spec of blood at the entry point. In worst case scenarios, Holland says needles inserted too deep could puncture organs, but this is extremely rare.

To make sure you’re getting the best care, it’s a good idea to find a registered practitioner through the AACMA. Just like a doctor, acupuncturists are registered to practice medicine and a good practitioner will always talk through your health issues with you first before beginning treatment.

One question that arises time and time again is, can I use acupuncture on it’s own or should it only be done in conjunction with western medicine?

Holland says it is absolutely safe to use acupuncture on it’s own and many people use it along with their regular GP visits, too.

If you’re feeling a little nervous about giving it a go, it’s a good idea to call a practitioner and talk through the treatment process with them. They should be able to tell you how they work and what areas of the body they will focus on to help you.

Have you tried acupuncture? Would you ever give it a go?

  1. Joy  

    It sure does work! Over 40 years ago I was suffering from appalling hay fever, to the extent that my eyes were swollen shut, my nose didn’t work, and could barely breathe. I started a course of acupuncture, and after each session, on the way home, my nose would suddenly unclog and I could breathe for 24 hours. The long course didn’t completely cure it, but made it bearable, and manageable. Perhaps more acupuncture would have made it completely disappear ,but I only did it for one season.

    • K Farrell  

      I had acupuncture for lower back pain. One of the needles was placed into the Glutueous Maximus muscle. It was like a bolt of lightening – after which I forgot about my lower back pain – problem solved.

  2. Tom Eadie  

    I have had acupuncture treatment on several occasions, firstly for a shoulder problem and secondly for stomach problems, on both occasions the treatment has been successful. This is a non evasive and painless treatment that has helped me when western medicine has not been very good.

  3. Mike  

    Well done Loretta. A very sensible response to a very poorly written article. I suppose the next thing we can expect from this site is an astrology section.

  4. Carol de Rycke  

    I am certainly a believer in acupuncture. It worked for me! Modern medicine, based on suppressing symptoms with dangerous and allergenic chemicals, did not.

  5. Joy Anne Bourke  

    Yes I agree it works. I was very dubious about acupuncture right up until a few months ago. One thing though you must find one that knows what they are doing. I am on Warfarin and since I cannot take a lot of medications and injections my doctor finally told me of an acupuncture Dr that her patients go to and since I could not move my left arm due to very serious Tennis Elbow and Golfers Elbow I then made bookings and now it is 90% better and have another 2 sessions. Great to have my left arm. Also have asked him about my arthritis and will be working on that especially in my hands as I cannot bend my fingers or anything without severe pain. This won’t be cured but will give me relief.

  6. noeline mcintosh  

    I have tried it on a couple of occasions. hard to say if it really worked. I didn’t walk out feeling great straight away. had massive pain once when iam sure the woman hit a nerve. put me off now. I have been told that you must get onto it immediately for it to work.

  7. Susan Bell  

    for anything to work you need to have a correct diagnosis. This may require x-rays, ultra sounds and other diagnostic tools. Acupuncturists do not use these diagnosis tools, hence they often misdiagnose the condition. Incorrect diagnosis can lead to delays in needed treatment and can worsen the problem. Over the years I have given in to pressure to use acupuncture for a variety of things IT DOES NOT WORK.It acts like a placebo.

    • Paul Seymour  

      Susan you must have had a poor practioner I have found that over the years in most situations you can get relief

  8. I had a bad knee about 2 years ago and could barely walk. Even getting in and out of a car was difficult. Doc sent me to the hospital. Had an x-ray and the hospital doctor told me there was nothing to see except I may have some fluid on my knee. It was probably the onset of arthritis because of my age. Nothing to be done, goodbye. I took myself to a physiotherapist who also did acupuncture. I hadn’t experienced acupuncture before. Six weeks of treatment and I felt better each time. Two years later and I’m still free of pain. So much for the hospital doctor.

  9. Wendi nichols  

    It’s like any treatment some work some don’t I’ve had success with acupuncture after being advised
    By doctors they couldn’t treat numbness and nerve pain in foot after severe animal attack…. also have it for now for neck pain which can lead to migraines

  10. Louis - Born in Africa  

    It certainly sorted out my tennis elbow

  11. jaywalker  

    Didn’t work for me for nerve pain.

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