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Top 3 Surprises About Acupuncture

By Sara Calabro

As someone who’s an acupuncturist, who runs a website about acupuncture and talks to other acupuncturists on a daily basis, it’s easy to become convinced that everyone is an educated acupuncture junkie. But lately, I’ve been reminded that this is not the case.

In recent months, I’ve found myself having more frequent conversations with people who have never had acupuncture. It’s been a great reminder of how foreign acupuncture—the experience of getting a treatment as well as the underlying theory—still is to the majority of Westerners.

Myths and misconceptions about acupuncture are rampant in a society whose medical culture is dominated by pharmaceuticals, surgeries, and other quick-fix interventions. In my recent encounters with the uninitiated, three themes come up again and again.

Here are the top three things that surprise people about acupuncture.

Acupuncture is not just for pain

Ask most people why other people get acupuncture and the majority will say pain. It’s true that acupuncture can work wonders on pain conditions—for everything from low back pain and shoulder pain to migraines and TMJ, acupuncture is on it.

However, acupuncture can alleviate a wide variety of ailments that have nothing to do with physical pain. Whether you have digestive issues, gynecological conditions, emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression, asthma, seasonal allergies, you name it, acupuncture can help address your symptoms.

Check out these 14 things you probably didn’t realize acupuncture can help with.

Acupuncturists go to school for a long time

People tend to be unaware of the extent to which acupuncturists train to become licensed in their profession. Many assume becoming an acupuncturist is similar to becoming a massage therapist or Reiki practitioner or yoga instructor. Not so much.

At minimum, a licensed acupuncturist in the United States has been to three years of graduate school. Four years is more common. They hold masters degrees. Some acupuncturists with doctorates have studied at the graduate level for five-plus years. Upon graduating from an accredited school, all acupuncturists must pass multiple board exams to become licensed in their state.

In addition to the academic and state requirements for practicing acupuncture, many acupuncturists seek hands-on training and mentorship in the form of apprenticeships and continuing education seminars.

Acupuncture is relaxing

“So you lie still while someone sticks multiple needles into your body?”
“And this not only doesn’t hurt but also relaxes you?”

Weird, I know. But true.

Acupuncture needles are surprisingly thin. They do not bear any resemblance to needles that are used for injections or to draw blood. (See one up close here.) In most cases, the insertion of acupuncture needles does not hurt. It can produce a variety of sensations but frequent acupuncture goers will tell you it doesn’t hurt.

Once the needles are in, they start working their magic, which is where the relaxation part comes in. Acupuncture helps shift your body out of sympathetic mode (fight or flight) and into parasympathetic mode (rest and digest). It mellows out the nervous system, decreases muscular tension, and helps quiet internal chatter.

People who get acupuncture on a regular basis are familiar with the term “acu-land,” a magical place where many find themselves during and after acupuncture treatments. It’s a state of blissful relaxation in which you feel lighter, calmer, and better equipped to manage stress. You ought to check it out some time.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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Thanks for writing this. It’s so true. I went to school for 8 years to become an acupuncturist (4 yr undergrad degree + 4 yrs grad school in chinese medicine). It was a long road and SO worth it!


Love this article!! I tell everyone I know how much benefit I have received from Acupuncture treatment, and now more than ever! I have recently been diagnosed as having PTSD and the treatment is making an impact on how well my mind and body and Spirit are receiving my therapy.


It is so true that people just think of acupuncture as sticking needles into someones body. More articles like this need to be written to inform everyone of what acupuncture can do for people.


The article is really inspiring.True I learned acupuncture for three years, but long before I was into Accupressure and foot reflexology and Sujok. So learning acupuncture was a bit easy, especially because of the passion. I also had a great opportunity to practice in an acupuncture clinic.
Acupuncture is a great gift as an alternative system of medicine and I use it for umpteen diseases with astonished results, especially in morbid waste elimination, infertility, edema, skin diseases, cough and cold and what not.It works wonders.
I’m thankful for the information.


I think the spectrum of quality of acupuncturist around the world, but also within the same country, aswell as the background the different acupuncturist have (doctor, physiotherapist, or no other degree) make a lot of people think a lot of acupuncturist didnt study long..

Peter Kington

Insightful article. Your right we acupuncturists undertake a vast amount of studying to become the person they are. The sensation of acupuncture is one that can not be explained, I would have to agree though that it does not hurt.


Dear Peter,

acupuncture has worked wonders for me especially paralysis and infertility patients.the results encourage me to go into the mysteries of this ancient cure. however i have one regret that in between the lines there are lots of traditional useful knowledge that we missed, especially of the One Touch Acupuncture Therapy that we have discovered here. Its so unique that with a special way( not mentioned or taught that I heard or know of) we can feel the pulse in a special part of the body and arrive through the five element theory of which organ is to be treated and which point is to be given. There’s no need of even the command points, but only 12 points to master in all and the treatment takes only 5 minutes with astonishing results.

similarly there are more things wrought in acupuncture than this world dreams of. If one only we were able to find out these.

Eleso Adenrele

,It’s very interesting to read the e-mail you’ve been sending .The trouble about this, is that, being living in an eastern europian country ,it’s very difficult,i think, not only me, but other colleagues too, to purchase the articles or books you recommend.

Oona Houlihan

Acupuncture really is only one aspect of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is so counterintuitive to medical-school-trained Westerners that it may actually take centuries to take hold in the West – or, it will go faster if and when the West’s largely unaffordable health care systems go down the drain.

Dan @ Equilibrium

It’s great to have posts like this. So many people out there don’t know a whole lot about acupuncture … and they’re even afraid of it. I met a man once who even believed that acupuncturists go to an 8 week course. Education is just so important. Thanks again.


I have been having this treatment for 3 months on a weekly basis.
I feel much better, its helped with worry and stress.


I’ve been getting acupuncture for 4 years now, and my husband has always said I get ‘high’ after a session, now we know there is a ‘technical’ term for that feeling!! hahaha
“People who get acupuncture on a regular basis are familiar with the term “acu-land,” a magical place where many find themselves during and after acupuncture treatments. It’s a state of blissful relaxation in which you feel lighter, calmer, and better equipped to manage stress.”

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