To most people, acupuncture is an unknowable thing. Is it medicine? Is it a placebo? Is it hocus pocus? Depending on who you ask, it is medicine, a placebo and quite possibly magical.
First, let us look at how much schooling is required for the average acupuncturist in the US. To be accepted into acupuncture school, one must already have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools do allow students in with an associate’s degree but these students will be required to take an extensive amount of prerequisites. For you see, to receive an acupuncture degree is to have your master’s degree.
Acupuncture programs are on average 4 years long. 4 years! While I was attending school, many people assumed that I was getting some sort of certificate. “Acupuncture school is only 6 months long, right?” Nope. It’s 4 years. And each quarter was on average 25+ units of courses. Makes me tired just thinking about it.
Now you’re wondering why so long and so much. As much as I would love to say that I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learned how to levitate things with a flick of a wand, we had extensive training on western science and medicine, while learning a medicine that is over 2000 years old. We learn all this because acupuncture is medicine that treats actual diseases.
There it is. The elusive answer: ACUPUNCTURE IS MEDICINE! (WHO – World Health Organization – would back me up here.)
Acupuncturists do not necessarily see themselves as separate from the western medical community. We see ourselves as a very useful and often necessary medicine to be used WITH western medicine. For instance, when a cancer patient undergoes chemo, they are being treated for cancer. But what about the side effects of chemo that diminishes the quality of life for the patient because of nausea, weakness, dizziness, etc. That’s where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture can treat the side effects of chemo so that the quality of life of the patient is of a human being and not that of a rag doll.
Acupuncture is indeed medicine. It can also be a placebo. But why is being a placebo so wrong? The western medical community use placebos all the time to treat some of their patients but they are not considered quacks. This is because placebos do have their place in medicine. When people go to see their doctor, they want to feel better. Sometimes their pain is mental and/or emotional and in these cases, placebos work wonders.
And is acupuncture magical? The results of acupuncture treatments are magical. With a hair-thin needle, acupuncture can relieve a person of a chronic illness, when no other pill or treatment could. That is magical. And when a patient leaves my office with a smile on their face, that is magical.