As Acupuncturists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine we get some of the most interesting questions. Below are a few of my favorite questions that I have captured over my years of practice.
"I Have a Question for You, but Please, Don't be Offended"
I had a patient recently start a conversation in a very dramatic way: “I have a question for you but please, please don’t be offended.” Obviously, she instantly had me bracing for impact, but I told her to go ahead and ask her question. “Do you wash your hands between patients?” she asked. I had to laugh out loud — that was her question!?
That was nothing compared to the things I have been asked over the years, so I thought I would address a few of the common misconceptions about acupuncture, based on some of the more colorful questions I’ve been asked in the past (and yes, I do wash my hands between each patient if I am going to be doing acupuncture. If I am just checking on you to make sure you’re warm enough or comfortable, then I skip it).
I am considering acupuncture but want you to know that I am Christian.
Nothing about an acupuncture treatment will change whether you are Christian or any other religion. This is a medicine rooted in thousands of years of history and has been scientifically proven over and over again. And while we’re on the topic, I never talk religion or politics in my treatment rooms, so please feel free to skip them too.
My doctor told me I should try acupuncture, but I don’t want any spells or potions.
Got it. No spells or potions. Next question, please.
My friend calls the acupuncture office The Voodoo Village. Does this bother you?
Nope, my own mother likes to call me a witch doctor. She’s just kidding — remember, we don’t do spells or potions. In all honesty, this stuff can be weird, so I get all the jokes. And if you’ve been in to see us, you know we will probably beat you to the punch line every time.
Do you reuse needles?
No. Acupuncturists are held to using something called "Clean Needle Technique" which means we must use sterile, single-use needles unless we autoclave them and that’s so 1990s! I will occasionally make a joke in poor taste about just throwing the needles in the dishwasher at the end of the night, but all jokes aside, your safety and health are my priority.
How long do you guys have to go to school?
I think there is a misconception that acupuncturists are trained similar to massage therapists with about a year of training. In reality, we’re trained a lot like doctors. We must have an undergraduate degree and then complete a three-to-four year master’s degree, which includes class and clinical training … something like 3,500 hours.
As acupuncture gains recognition and acceptance, it is being used as a primary health care and we are often people’s first stop for any issue. We are trained heavily in pharmaceuticals and western diagnosis as well as the Traditional Chinese Medicine side so that we know how to handle the variety of issues we see, and so that we know when to refer out to other health care professionals.
Can you believe that it was my doctor that suggested I try acupuncture?
Yes, yes I can believe that. Please refer to the question above about the medicine being very old, heavily researched, and proven.
So do I need to believe in this stuff for it to work - is it all in my head?
Again, please refer to question number one above — really old science says it works. As veterinary acupuncture and pediatric acupuncture gains traction, I think we will see more and more about kids and animals responding well to acupuncture — and they don’t know that they should get better, so they are perfect examples showing this is not just in your head.
As they say...
There are no stupid questions,
...and as you can see here, we’ve heard a lot of potentially “offensive” questions.
However, if you’re thinking it, somebody else probably is too. Ask whatever questions plague you, but when this modality works, and it will, be sure to tell your friends that acupuncture is not just for the outliers and hippies … you don’t know how or why, but it worked for you and it might work for them too.