Why are more and more people getting acupuncture?
The short answer is: because it works. And because it works, more and more Orthodox / Western / Scientific Medicine Clinicians (like GPs, Physiotherapists, Gynaecologists, Nurses, Midwifes, etc) are recommending it to their patients.
By now, you must be asking yourself “but how would these western medical clinicians be ok with their patients getting acupuncture treatments?” – simple: there are no side effects from acupuncture and it doesn’t interfere with any other Western Medicine treatment that the patient(s) might be getting.
Furthermore, acupuncture is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO – click on the link to visit their page where this is discussed) and because the regulatory bodies in Ireland (AFPA, both Siobhan and Sandro are registered members and Sandro sits in the Executive Committee) and in Europe (ETCMA) ensure that when patients are referred to qualified, registered and insured acupuncturists, they will get the best care possible for their ailments.
So, the question should be: “why shouldn’t more and more people be getting acupuncture?” – we have established that because it works, it is recognised by the highest authority in medicine (WHO), and therefore western medicine clinicians refer patients to licensed acupuncturists.
For the patients that are not being referred by another health professional and are looking for acupuncture treatment for the first time, their main concern should be that the practitioner that they attend is fully qualified, registered and insured. The regulatory body will have an up-to-date database of acupuncturists that have done the necessary training hours and exams to be fully licensed to practice – this is true for Ireland and for other countries as well.
Attending a licensed acupuncturist also ensures that the patient will be able to claim back on their own private health insurance plan, should they have one.
Does that mean that all acupuncturists are the same?
No. Just like with any other profession, medical practitioners including acupuncturists will have trained in different colleges and graduated at different stages of medical developments. We all know how quickly science evolves, so it is easy to understand that a medical student a decade ago had substantial less research to go through during his/her course than a current student.
The WHO also regulates the amount of training hours that acupuncture students have to do in order to become licensed/certified: 2500.
Like with Western Medicine practitioners, young acupuncture graduates can embark on further post-grad education and specialising in a particular field of acupuncture treatment. For example, we have been to China to study and did training hours in the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and its affiliate hospitals. Since 2009, we have completed extra post-grad courses in Gynaecology, Endocrinology, Assisted Reproduction Technology (IUI, IVF, ICSI, IMSI, etc) and Obstetrics, and we are fully qualified members of the Acupuncture Fertility Network (AFN).
Sandro is starting the MSc in Advanced Oriental Medicine (research and practice) in 2015/16 – validated by the Middlesex University in the UK, ran in conjunction with the Northern College of Acupuncture in York. This qualification is recognised in all the EU countries through the Bologna Process (to find out more about the Bologna Process and the European University Association, please click here).
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is essential for any medical practice and acupuncture is no different. The regulatory bodies ensure that their members complete CPD courses / lectures on a yearly basis – and this in turn keeps the licensed acupuncturist at the forefront of research and developments in treatment protocols.
So how come there are still so many people that have doubts about acupuncture and licensed acupuncturists?
Let’s demystify some of the common doubts:
- “Acupuncture hurts.” / “I’m afraid of needles!”
While there are some people that have a genuine phobia of needles, others are only hesitant because the thought of “needles” normal is followed by thoughts of “ouch!”. But the truth is that the “needles” that most people think about are the syringe needles: hypodermic needles, which are hollow (to draw blood or inject fluid) and cut in a slant at the tip. See the picture comparing the sizes:
Acupuncture needles are thin, filiform, sterilised and single use. Needling sensation is different for every patient, but the closes that we can get to explain what it feels like is to the sensation of grabbing and pulling tree body hairs simultaneously. That “stingy”/”pinchy” sensation is what the insertion of an acupuncture needle feels like.
And if you still have doubts about how thin the acupuncture needles are, a picture is worth a thousand words! Look at how an acupuncture needle can easily fit inside one hypodermic needle:
The skilled acupuncturist will insert the needles quickly and painlessly. You will get a sensation around the area where the needle is inserted, and sometimes even a bit of redness around the needle (called erythema) but nothing like “pain”!
After the needles are inserted, patients are left to relax for 10-15mins in a comfortable position and some even fall asleep due to the relaxation from the treatment and the whole environment created but the clinician.
- “I’ve heard about it…but does it really work?”
Are we going to go through this again? Yes, it does work – as mentioned in detail above, there are more and more studies and research being published where controlled, scientific research techniques are applied and the results prove the efficacy of acupuncture treatments.
Or, we could answer this question with another question: if acupuncture didn’t work, how do you think that it would survive centuries and centuries of usage and development?
Don’t you think that IF it didn’t work, it would’ve been dropped a long, long time ago? Don’t you think that IF it didn’t work, hospitals (not just in China, Japan, Korea, but also other in the western world, like the Whittington Hospital in London which has a dedicated Pain Clinic run entirely by TCM practitioners) would be using it for treatments?
And mainly: IF it didn’t work, how would the WHO recognise it as an effective form of medicine?
So: FACTS explained, we can rest this debate…acupuncture is recognised, it is safe when practiced by qualified licensed acupuncturists and due to more and more research being published, it is getting a more and more prominent place in the healthcare system worldwide.
- “Oh, yeah – acupuncture…tried it once in a shop / while on holidays / ____insert unqualified and/or unregistered practitioner here____ … and it didn’t work for me!”
Always ensure that you visit a licensed acupuncturist! Make sure that your practitioner is qualified, registered and insured – working in a safe and hygienic medical environment.
Acupuncture is “only” medicine – not miracles! Like with any other medical treatment, there’s a diagnosis, a treatment and a prognosis. Every condition needs time to be treated and to develop through the different stages of recovery.
Also, remember that the prognosis depends on two major factors: how serious it is and how long it has been there for. So, a patient can expect to go for ONE acupuncture treatment for a back pain that has been there for 2 years and then say…I tried acupuncture once and it didn’t work! Or, being diagnosed with a chronic condition, going for ONE (or even a couple of treatments) and say that it doesn’t work…
- “It’s quite expensive because you have to go for a lot of treatments…”
Well, that depends on the prognosis. If you have a chronic condition (serious) or a condition that has been there for a long time, then it is only normal to expect that there will be a few more treatments. But the same thing applies to taking medication, or going for physiotherapy, for example. If you go to a GP or a Consultant and you’re diagnosed with a serious condition, then you can expect to be put on medication (probably strong) for a relative long period of time, or at least until you get better. Same with physiotherapy: if your condition / symptoms are strong or have been there for a long period of time, then you can expect more treatment sessions.
Regarding costs: as registered licensed acupuncturists, we are regulated by the respective associations, which set the standards and the recommendations for the medical fees. In the TCM Ireland clinics, the medical fee is €50.
- “I’m already on medication…”
That’s no problem! Please bring the names of the meds you are currently taking when going for the first acupuncture consultation / treatment AND inform your acupuncturist of the dosages so that it all can be taken into account for your treatment.
- “My GP must be quite open to alternatives because he/she just referred me to get acupuncture!”
No, your GP is not “open to alternatives” – your GP is up-to-date with the WHO recommendations and with the research and studies that keep being published showing how well both Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine can work in conjunction. This is where the accepted term “Complementary Medicine” comes from.
- “I can’t tell my doctor that I’m getting acupuncture because he/she might not approve of it…”
As above, any doctor / clinician that is up-to-date with the recommendations and general acceptance of the benefits of acupuncture will support you on your choice, to ensure that you get treatment from a licensed acupuncturist – meaning they can then both work together for your own benefit!
- “My friend told me that acupuncture helped when he/she was trying to conceive – but I don’t understand how it could make a difference…”
A lot of research has been done and publish in the field of acupuncture for fertility. The most outstanding one, known as “the German study”, was published in the reputable journal of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine “Fertility and Sterility” in April 2002.
In the study, half of the women received standard IVF, the other half were given acupuncture treatments before and after. In the acupuncture group, 42.5% of patients became pregnant, while in the IVF-only group, 26.3% of patients conceived.
Since then, other studies have been conducted and published, showing that acupuncture can:
- Improve sperm quality and counts in infertile men;
- Improve the lining of the endometrium, including increased blood flow to the uterus;
- Regulate hormone levels, specifically gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn may improve ovulation rates;
- Help the treatment of women with PCOS and anovulatory cycles;
- Help those with thyroid problems (as problems with the thyroid can lead to problems with fertility);
- Increase the number of follicles produced during an IVF treatment.
- “I’d love to get some acupuncture now because it has helped me before…but I’m pregnant…”
One of the practitioners that we had the privilege of studying with, Dr Debra Betts PhD, is a midwife and an acupuncturist – and the main responsible for the development of acupuncture during pregnancy. Because it doesn’t “add” anything to your body and because there’s no side effects from the treatments, acupuncture (in the hands of a licensed practitioner) is safely used from early pregnancy all the way through to preparation for labour, birth and post-natal recovery.
- “I’ve been told it might help, but my son/daughter/baby is probably too young to get treatment…”
There are no age restrictions for acupuncture treatments. Any person of any age can get treatment and what will change is the treatment procedure and protocol in order to adjust / adapt to the patient’s age.
We were looking for help to answer this question and we thought that this picture of young Libby Gray (www.acupuncture-cheltenham.co.uk), getting acupuncture treatment does speak loud about how acupuncture is safe, painless and kids of any age can get it!
So…if you still have any questions or queries about acupuncture or any of the mentioned above, please feel free to contact us. Click here for the contacts page and our clinic locations.
See you in one of our clinics soon!