When someone asks me “how does acupuncture work?” they ask with a skeptical raised eye brow and with a tone of suspicion and disbelief. This is even when they are being treated. I bet when undertaking an MRI scan, hardly anyone understands how it works, and when a doctor gives you a subscription for antibiotics you don’t give him a disbelieving look and say “Really? But how do they work?” Without a second thought you start the course, ingesting a synthetic pill EVERYDAY for the required duration – and you never ask or understand what they are actually doing, right? You just guzzle them down. But when it comes to the ancient art of acupuncture, with centuries of proven efficacy there seems to be an acquired right of uncertainty. Granted acupuncture is a little less used and mainstream than downing a load of aspirin or antibiotics, or sadly (and I really mean this) anti-depressants. Anyway, my point is, many people in our modern day existence find it hard to believe that acupuncture works any better than a placebo. And then they think that this question “How does it work?”– which is so immense, partly because Chinese Medicine is about the whole and not about the parts, can be answered in a short brief synopsis, and only then, if the explanation matches their own interior version of how health works and what healing is, they concede. Also, the answer, from most acupuncturists inevitably involves the flow of energy or Qi (Qi embodies everything and is everything) and with a roll of their eyes or a complacent nod, “I should have known” they (the skeptics) stand tall in their preconceived conclusion that Western Medical Science is superior. Obviously, physics and science (I am no scientist) has proven that we are really beings of energy and vibration, radiating our own unique energy signature -this is fact and is what quantum physics has shown us time and time again.
Any hoo, alongside the apparent growing curiosity of Eastern Medicine, there are also signs that medication is increasingly being questioned. Most medication (statins, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, decongestants ) treat the symptoms, relief is short lived, and you are on it for the foreseeable long term. This means it does not get to the route of the problem. Any comprehensive system of medicine must strive to be a therapy that treats the heart of the individual’s condition. This means treating the body, mind and spirit. In the words of my former supervisor, “Unless a system of medicine has a clear vision of how the body, mind and spirit interact with each other, then it is doomed to be forever limited to a therapy of symptomatic relief.”
Anyway my point is that I always get asked “How does acupuncture work?” And I say experience it for yourself. There are a few things to mention before you take the leap –(1) go to one on the British Acupuncture Council Register, those acupuncturists would have acquired excellent, professional and thorough training , (2) you don’t have to believe it to try it, (3) you don’t have to negate Western Medical Science – i.e. stop going to your GP, indeed acupuncture works very well alongside conventional medicine, and can alleviate side effects of medication, (4) enjoy it, (5) go 3-4 times, then you can begin to see the real benefits.
I came to acupuncture because I have PCOS, (physical symptoms for me included hirsutism, belly weight, spots and irregular periods, moodiness, and my confidence was pretty low). Clearly not life threatening but for a young me of 24 this wasn’t great. Maybe having my periods 6 months apart was less hassle free, but other than that, not great; and I think the worst of it was that my confidence took a battering. I downplay this, the symptoms were longstanding, and since my menarche, my confidence had been sliding down at some speed a muddy mossy slope; it was non existent and I was pretty exhausted too.
Anyway the doctors wanted to put me on either Metformin (which is used in Type 2 Diabetes) and / or the Pill, the latter being their professional preference. There was something profoundly contradictory about this. Even me, with my little self-esteem and desperate to alleviate my oh-so-attractive symptoms (hairy, spotty, pudgy) it didn’t make sense.
PCOS means that your hormones are messed up. For me the Pill was something that would muck around with my hormones even more; I would be pumping synthetic progesterone in to my body, suppressing oestrogen production, and preventing ovulation. My problem was I wasn’t ovulating or menstruating – why would I want to curtail this further? My body needed to get back on track, not be dumbed down. The female cycle is a system of intricate hormonal feedback loops and I was recommended to pull the proverbial wool from underneath it and over-ride it altogether.
Resistant and defiant I did my own research; acupuncture was consistently advised for PCOS. I was not disappointed, and there were several very re-assuring things. (1) the acupuncturist listened to me as if I mattered, and my problems, my lack of self-confidence and my symptoms were understood. I wasn’t just another problem on a conveyor belt. (2) the needles didn’t hurt at all, there are weird sensations, but it is not anything like having a blood test (3) my period regulated, my spots went, I was less moody and grumpy, and I had a renewed sense of energy (4) I felt like myself again.
And I didn’t have to keep taking a pill. My body and mind had joined up and regulated. Everything was as it should. “Everything had fallen in to place, not in to pieces.”
Anyway my point to all this – is try it yourself and give it a chance. It’s not a miracle but it’s immensely satisfying when your body and mind plug in, work together, function how they should. How does acupuncture work? the proof is in the pudding.