Acupuncture: Do I have to believe for it to work?

The holiday season is upon us, and with it brings up many questions about believing. Many people have asked me if they need to believe in Acupuncture for it to work, so I decided to address that today.

The answer is NO, but it helps! (Let me explain . . . )

Acupuncture has a reputation with some people as being mystical and magical. In Oriental Medicine we learn to use words like Qi and describe patterns like Liver Qi Stagnation. It definitely has its own language and this may seem odd. However, Oriental medicine has been around for thousands of years, way before any type of diagnostic tests like blood, ultrasound, or CT scans. It is because of this they learned to diagnose based on observation. They also looked to nature and their environment in order to describe things going on in the body. For example there are multiple diagnosis that include the word 'Wind', this term is referring to how wind acts in nature and relates it to symptoms that occur in the body. 

In our Western culture we aren't used to hearing about Wind in the body, therefore it may be easy to write Oriental Medicine off as cooky or unscientific. This is far from the truth. The language we use to diagnose aside, there is nothing that we do in Oriental medicine that doesn't affect the body's physiology. When we insert a needle into the body, the body reacts. The body increases blood circulation to the area, endorphins are released, natural anti-inflammatory properties are released and many more actions take place in the local area. Depending on where the needle is placed it may stimulate nerves in the body, which send signals to the brain and the body takes action. Just because thousands of years ago we didn't have this specific knowledge or these words to explain what was happening doesn't mean that it's unscientific. 

So this leads me to my point. If we agree that Acupuncture works physiologically on the body and is related to science the same way that any other medical procedure is. Then normal placebo rules apply. If you're not familiar with the word placebo here is the definition as taken from the dictionary:




  1. a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect.

Placebo applies to any medication or procedure. There is a percentage of people that will improve based on the suggestion that they will and their own belief. This is an amazing testiment to the power of our brains over our bodies. According to the placebo effect can take place in up to 1 in 3 people.

So, yes! Belief is important, just believing something will help can absolutely make a difference in treatment. However, you don't have to believe Acupuncture will work in order for it to. I've had many patients who come to me and immediately tell me they don't believe in what I do. That's ok, I find it to be a fun challenge. I've had the privilege of turning some of these same patients into believers. Some of these patients haven't had the results that they desired with Acupuncture, but I don't think that it's only because they don't believe. There are many factors to consider in why Acupuncture works and why, just like any medical drug or procedure, sometimes it doesn't. 

Choosing to believe in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is choosing to believe in the power of your body to heal itself! I think that is such a beautiful thing. 

Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac.                                              Sign Up for our Monthly Wellness Newsletter

Roseville, Ca

The Root Wellness