This question, along with “do you really use a porcupine's worth of needles like in those photos on the internet?” and “does acupuncture hurt?” are the most common questions we get.
It's a good question too; as for the most part here in the West we do not have the cultural background of seeing it used by our family members or community as we grew up. For us, it is an exotic import from the East and while we want to believe it can unwind our tightly knotted problems. Our lack of experience with it rightly leaves us with an eyebrow-raised skepticism.
I'm a big fan of skepticism and critical thinking, especially when accompanied by an inquiring mind.
So lets dig in; does Chinese medicine work? For that matter, does Western medicine work?
The answer for both is a qualified–yes.
Yes, both medicines can work. But, it is better to ask the more specific question–“What kinds of conditions are best treated by which medicine?” Let's take surgery as an example. Great stuff, especially for tendon-torn, blown-out knees, gunshot wounds, certain types of cancer and various emergency conditions. It's not so good for migraine headaches, infertility, bad moods, or irregular menstruation. Antibiotics–stunningly effective in the treatment of various bacterial infections; useless however, when dealing with illness due to a virus, or worse yet, from an unknown etiology.
So it goes for acupuncture too. Can it treat end-stage heart disease? Not so well.
What about polyps in the intestine, or growths the size of a softball? Again, there are better methods as a first choice for those particular problems.
Clearly, one of the first things any physician needs to do is make sure that the treatment they have in mind can safely and effectively address the complaint.
So what does acupuncture treat well?
The short answer is watch your TV. In an evening's time you will be exposed to a parade of cheerful, slow motion side-effect free depictions of pharmaceutically induced happiness and health. A good 80% or more of these conditions can be treated by acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Treated effectively without drugs or surgery.
Does acupuncture work? Yes.
Does Western medicine work? Yes.
Which one is best? That would depend a lot on the problem itself, your individual preference for natural verse chemical methods, and your ability to tolerate the side effects inherent with most prescription medication.
Is Chinese medicine right for you? Ask your acupuncturist!