Five Reasons Why Acupuncture Doesn't Work

If you have tried acupuncture in the past and were disappointed that the therapy didn't work, you're not alone.

If you have tried acupuncture in the past and were disappointed that the therapy didn't work, you're not alone. There are a few reasons why acupuncture doesn't work that usually are not explained to you. You might not have even received treatment, but someone else told you they had received treatment and didn't feel anything happen. After you read all the Google reviews of the acupuncture office, it would seem that acupuncture does work based on the experience of others, but it leaves you wondering - "why didn't it work for me?" Your brain's internal doubt generator kicks in, and you may start questioning your ability to heal. "What if I can't heal? I guess I'm going to have to be like this forever. What's wrong with me?"


Before I get into why acupuncture doesn't work, let's outline how we view health at Women's Traditional Chinese Healing. As a fast-moving, highly stressed society, we don't have time to wait for healing. Western medicine has conditioned us to ask, "Isn't there a pill I can take for that?" We don't want to be inconvenienced by changing our diet, spending time meal prepping, or even worse, giving up those "comfort foods" that we love for healthier choices.

We live in America, where Western biomedical culture dominates our healthcare system, and natural medicine is considered an "alternative." This culture has taught us many half-truths about health. If you are sick, you see the doctor. Why would you see a doctor if you weren't sick? "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," right? If you don't have any symptoms, you must be well. "Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." Many people consider themselves "healthy" despite taking several prescription medicines that control their blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, or other chronic diseases. The problem is these statements are the furthest thing from the truth. As practiced in many practices throughout America, acupuncture has its fair share of promulgated half-truths that we must correct.


You would be wise not to waste your time or money receiving acupuncture if any of the following five reasons apply to you.


Reason Number One: The health practitioner performing the acupuncture has not been adequately trained in performing the therapy, has little clinical experience, or knows little of acupuncture theory. Thus, the acupuncturist's lack of skill results in your treatment failure.

  • Problem: In Florida, like in many other states, a biomedical physician (MD, DO) can perform acupuncture without any formal training. A physical therapist can insert acupuncture needles into the body, calling it dry needling or trigger point work, without any formal training in acupuncture. A chiropractor can perform acupuncture with a minimal number of training hours.

  • Solution: Board-certified acupuncture physicians attend accredited schools of East Asian medicine resulting in a Master's or Doctoral degree. They receive thousands of hours of training in acupuncture theory and practice. Find an NCCAOM board-certified acupuncturist to provide the best result.


Reason Number Two: The first acupuncture treatment didn't work to relieve your symptoms, and you're not getting a result after having acupuncture weekly or less frequently.

  • Problem: Acupuncture is based on the frequency of treatments - and the treatments are cumulative. You may have thought you'd see how the first treatment went and return for another if you "felt anything." Compare acupuncture treatments and healing to wanting to get your body back in shape by signing up for the gym. Sporadic workouts, without a consistent plan, won't yield results. After a month or so, you quit the gym because it "isn't working."

  • Solution: Staying persistent and maintaining treatment frequency is critical to effecting a change in your health. In China, it is not uncommon for patients to be treated every day in outpatient clinics, if not multiple times a day in a hospital setting. Treatment frequency is determined by the severity of the problem, patient age, adjunctive therapies, and diagnosis. As the body heals and strengthens, treatment frequency can be decreased based on the individual's response.

Reason Number Three: Acupuncture is only as good as the foundation upon which its performed, namely nutrition.

  • Problem: You believe that what you eat won't affect the results of acupuncture treatment. Poor nutritional habits and inadequate intake of whole foods can cause inflammation and not allow the body the tools to heal. In ancient China, the philosophy was to first build a strong foundation with nutrition before using other therapies. Certain foods identified in the Chinese classical literature consumed after an acupuncture treatment, such as sesame, alcohol, and spicy foods, can reduce the treatment's effectiveness.

  • Solution: Consider changing to healthier nutritional choices and looking for nutritional planning services in your acupuncture practice.


Reason Number Four: Your lifestyle and attitude do not support natural health.

  • Problem: Negative attitudes about health generate negative hormones and can block healing progression. You might think that the environment you live and work in, your lack of exercise, working long hours, not getting enough rest, or taking synthetic vitamins and supplements won't affect your acupuncture result, but it's another reason why acupuncture doesn't work. Most people think they are healthy because they don't have any symptoms. By the time you developed symptoms, you had a malfunctioning system for quite some time. Symptoms are the last stage of the disease, not the first.

  • Solution: An acupuncture treatment is designed to improve circulation and remove emotional and physical stagnation in a healthy environment. Develop a healthy, positive mental attitude about your health, and don't sabotage your acupuncture progress. Take an active part in your healing by following lifestyle recommendations from the acupuncture physician.


Problem Number Five: You think that acupuncture treatments alone are the only therapy to fix your problem.

  • Problem: Acupuncture is synergistic with Chinese massage (also called "Tuina" or Chinese bodywork), physical exercise, herbal medicine, mind-body relaxation (Tai chi and Qigong), and nutrition. By rejecting synergistic adjunctive natural therapies designed to support acupuncture, you lose the effectiveness of time-tested teamwork. In addition, the best treatment for your specific condition may not be acupuncture. Individuals that are very weak, have severe infections, or are debilitated, for example, may benefit far more from herbal medicine and nutrition than acupuncture.

  • Solution: Keep an open mind and work with the acupuncture physician as a team. Step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be open to other therapies. The acupuncture physician knows the best treatment to provide based on your diagnosis, comments, concerns, and past experiences. Don't tie their hands up trying to help you by rejecting their advice on alternate therapies based on fixed ideas.

Contact our office for a consultation on the five reasons why our unique practice of acupuncture CAN work for you!



In good health,

Dr. Stuart Shipe

DAOM, RPh, Dipl. OM (NCCAOM)

Board Certified Acupuncture & Herbology, Pharmacist

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