You’re Going to Stick What? Where?

Today’s entry via our own Sally Mravcak, MD, who practices primary care, women’s health, and acupuncture.

There’s been a lot of buzz about acupuncture lately.  Although people have been practicing acupuncture for over 2000 years, it only started to enter the American mainstream in the 1970’s.  Now,  you don’t have to look hard to find studies in medical literature and stories in the news -  even the U.S. military is training doctors to use acupuncture in battle zones and base clinics! 

My first experience with acupuncture was almost two decades ago, before my career as a physician ever began.   My mother had a painful episode of severe neck stiffness that no amount of medication,stretching, or aqua aerobics could shake.  Mom’s friend suggested acupuncture, and so off we went, with me as chauffeur, to a local acupuncturist.

The experience was like none I’d had before.  The acupuncturist looked at my mother’s tongue, took her pulse, then inserted fine needles in her neck, arms and legs.  He attached an electrical stimulator to two of the needles and then left the room. I waited with her in a dimly lit room while she rested, needles in place, for about twenty minutes.  When we left she was very relaxed and her neck felt a little better.  The next day, her neck pain continued to improve, and by day three she was back to her usual shop-til-you-drop self.

Medicine?   Voo-doo?  I wasn’t sure at the time.  All I knew was that it worked.  Placebo effect or not, mom’s neck was better.

It wasn’t until years later that I started to look deeper into acupuncture theory, had my own first acupuncture treatment, and decided to learn to perform acupuncture as a physician.  Here are some acupuncture basics:

  • Acupuncture works.  Many clinical trials have proven that acupuncture is effective in treating certain conditions.  For a list of conditions treatable by acupuncture, check out The World Health Organization website here .
  • Although everyone experiences acupuncture differently, most agree it doesn’t hurt.  Yes, you’ll feel the needle, but it is a fine needle that is inserted quickly and does not hurt anywhere near as much as having blood drawn or a vaccination.  Once the needle is in place, it is usually not painful.  And once all the needles are in place, most people feel relaxed and a little sleepy. 
  • You do not need to believe in acupuncture for it to work.   Acupuncture has been shown to be more effective than placebo in clinical trials.  Skeptic or not, if you have a problem treatable by acupuncture, in the right hands, it should have some effect.
  • Acupuncturists do not always need to stick needles in the painful “problem area” to see results.  Sometimes they place the needles in the ear or on the side of the body that is opposite to where the problem is.
  • Acupuncture is safe, has little to no side effects, and little risk of complications.

For more information, take a peek at the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture website here.  The site is created by doctors who perform acupuncture.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Mravcak, call the Center for Women’s Health at 609-588-5059.

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