There are many incorrect stereotypes when it comes to Chinese medicine even though it is regulated, studied, and scrutinized with the same critical lens as western medicine. In this article, we address some common myths about Chinese medicine and how these ideas are incorrect:
1. Chinese Medicine is Unregulated
Chinese medicine is regulated by a number of organizations and practitioners must complete education requirements, pass certification exams, acquire state acupuncture licensure and complete regular training and continuing education requirements.
Under the Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act of 1994 the Food and Drug Administration keeps a catalog and important health information on herbal supplements used in Chinese medicine. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine regulate the over 22,000 licensed practitioners nationwide. Just as with any doctor, you should do your research and explore compatibility options before selecting a regular provider.
2. Acupuncture Isn’t as Effective as Prescription Medicine
This is also false. In many medical issues, acupuncture has been proven to be just as effective and safer than prescription drugs. In 2012 the American Medical Association released a study in which 17,922 patients with chronic pain were treated with acupuncture, which led researchers to the conclusion that “acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.”
Especially when it comes to treating pain, acupuncture is also a beneficial pain management option because it does not have the addictive side effects that opioids have. About 2.1 million people in the United States struggle with opioid addiction, making acupuncture a safe and affective alternative.
Additionally, Fibromyalgia is a non-curable disease that is commonly treated with the prescription drug Cymbalta. However, studies show that acupuncture can help ease the common symptoms such as chronic pain, depression, and anxiety as effectively as Cymbalta, without the risk of side effects.
3. Acupuncture is Painful
Acupuncture involves needles, leading people to believe that it will be painful. The truth is the needles are about as thick as a human hair and while you may feel them entering they do not hurt. They are not as thick as hollow hypodermic needles and therefore there is no or very little pain.
In our experience, some patients cannot even feel when the needles are entering and are surprised initially by how acupuncture does not hurt at all.
4. Chinese Medicine is Exotic
Sometimes when people hear the term Chinese medicine, they think of foreign ingredients that are unapproachable or unappealing. This is simply not the case. Chinese medicine focuses on the body and energy as a whole system, which includes acupuncture, herbal medicines, massage, lifestyle changes, exercise, and diet. Many of the herbal remedies are commonly found in your own kitchen:
- Orange Peel
5. There is No Research Supporting Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine has been practiced for over 3000 years and has undergone rigorous research and testing. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are some of the most heavily researched practices.
In, 1997 the National Institute of Health summarized that acupuncture was effective in “adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain.”
Other medical issues listed by the NIH where acupuncture is used successfully:
- Stroke rehabilitation
- Menstrual cramps
- Tennis elbow
- Myofascial pain
- Low back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
6. Chinese Medicine is Outdated
Actually, Chinese medicine is more prevalent than ever. There has been an increase in overall industry growth in the United States and projections estimate continued growth in complementary medicine.
In fact, the CDC reported that Americans spend $33.9 billion in out of pocket expenses on complementary medicine and materials for self-care.
7. Chinese Medicine is Expensive
This is also not true, and the cost of Chinese medicine improves each day as practitioners work to make it more accessible for everyone with all types of insurance. Many health insurance companies now include acupuncture on their plans, especially when it is the primary treatment option for an issue. In fact, as part of the Affordable Care Act, acupuncturists and practitioners of Oriental medicine can now be considered primary care providers.
There are also an increasing number of clinics offering services on a sliding scale, and patients are also welcome to visit acupuncture schools (pictured above), where more affordable treatments are offered by students under the guidance of a licensed and experienced professional.