Acupuncture is not quite the mystery that it was only a few short years ago. In fact, it is becoming common to have Western doctors suggest acupuncture as an option for health conditions ranging from insomnia to infertility. Insurance companies are now starting to cover acupuncture, which is also helping the public to realize that it is a legitimate form of medicine. However, there are still many misconceptions about this healing art.

The most common misconception? Sharp, painful needles! Even people who have no fear of getting shots often say, “I would try acupuncture, but I'm afraid of the needles.” This is not surprising, since we all tend to fear things that we are unfamiliar with. Most people have never seen an acupuncture needle, yet they cringe just talking about it. In reality, acupuncture needles are about the size of a human hair. You can fit several of these acupuncture needles into a single hypodermic needle. They are so thin that they slide right into the skin with little to no sensation. For those who are VERY needle-phobic, there are additional options: many Japanese-style practitioners use tools such as magnets that can replace a needle during a treatment. Shakuju, a non-insertive form of acupuncture, is another type of treatment to consider.

There is also concern about the safety of acupuncture. First of all, each needle used is sterile and disposable. This sterile needle goes straight from the package into your skin, and then directly into a biohazard container for disposal afterward. There is no possible chance of contracting any sort of disease this way. As for causing any other sort of harm with the needles, acupuncturists spend 3-4 years being trained on what parts to avoid needling. As long as you have bought out a practitioner who graduated from an accredited school and is licensed by the NCCAOM, there should be no cause to worry.

Needle phobias besides, the next most common reason people do not see an acupuncturist is due to the assumption that it is only useful for treating existing injuries. When I suggest treatments to people with no obvious health issues, invariably the response is “But I do not have anything wrong with me right now!” This is like saying that you would rather go to the doctor for a muscle strain than stretch before running. Although acupuncture is great for pain and promoting healing, it can also help build a solid foundation of health so that you can avoid getting sick or injured in the first place. And is not that what we should all strive for?