Put a Pin it That!

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices in the world, having been used in China and other areas of Asia for thousands of years. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of anatomical points on the body that are connected along pathways known as meridians, using a variety of techniques. Most often, this will involve penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles, with or without electrical stimulation.

Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as being “widely” practiced by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists and other practitioners to successfully treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain, digestive function, infertility, headaches, and more. Acupuncture is currently even covered by some insurance companies and the reimbursement programs are growing, especially for the treatment of chronic pain. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous year.

I was only 19 years old when I was first exposed to acupuncture. After 6 months of being bounced from one doctor to another for intense pain throughout my entire body, coupled with fevers and fatigue, I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which in my opinion are diagnoses of exclusion when the answers are yet to be found). My physician at the time, a pain specialist, gave me 2 options: a spinal pain block that would be placed in my lumber vertebrae so that I could administer pain medication to myself as needed, or try acupuncture. 

Having grown up in a very isolated corner of Northeastern PA, where not even massage therapy was common and there were certainly no yoga classes, I was skeptical of Complementary Medicine, and wondered how laying on a table with pins in my body could help me. Was I ever wrong. 

I was privileged to meet David and Ming-Ming Molony, the owners of Lehigh Valley Acupuncture in Catasaqua, PA. My total physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were assessed in a way I never experienced before, and a treatment plan was tailored to address the integration of all of these components. The discomfort was quite minimal while the acupuncture needles were being inserted, and any discomfort was well worth the feeling both during the treatment and afterwards. Within a few months, nearly all of my pain was relieved. It came back, however, after I discontinued treatments. Months later, after extensive testing and clinical assessments, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. It took doctors 2 years to figure it out due to controversy surround the Western Blot.

Although acupuncture could not cure a rampant bacterial infection, I marvel at the fact that not a single prescription I was given to manage my pain came close to the effect acupuncture had.  More importantly, I never viewed medicine in the same way again. Today I take advantage of the best of both traditional and complementary medicine and encourage others to do so as well. 

Here are some great resources detailing the theory and physiology of acupuncture in better detail:



Best of health to you!


2 thoughts on “Put a Pin it That!

  1. I have to say that I’m a little disappointed that this has shown up on the HAPS blog. As teachers of anatomy and physiology, we should only be using examples that have been subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny, and have withstood that scrutiny. Acupuncture does not fit that criterion. Again and again the effects of acupuncture have been shown to be anecdotal, and the double-blind tests that have been done have shown no effect beyond a placebo. Go here for the breakdown on the latest scientific research on the topic:

    • Dear Tony,
      If you look back a few posts, I was asked to do a 5-part series on my personal experience with Complementary/Alternative Medicine. I told my personal experience with acupuncture and how it alleviated pain for me. Thus, I am not sure what you mean by “we should only be using ‘examples'”.

      If you read closely, nowhere did I say that acupuncture has been clinically proven, but that is widely used in the treatment of various conditions. I cited the National Institute of Health’s website on acupuncture for information, which is arguably the governing body on evidence-based medicine.

      My line of thinking is always: “where is the evidence?” I work in research, and have seen studies that found statistically significant benefits from acupuncture for some conditions, and plenty that did not. I am in no way advertising acupuncture, nor did I say it has been PROVEN effective in all conditions. There are a number of therapies that have been shown to be effective in some conditions or patient populations but not in others and that is why research continues to be conducted.

      I have to point out that the website you provided was an opinion piece, not a research paper, written by someone that cited a number of research studies that only and all supported his or her position. The language used in that piece is absolutely oozing with personal bias, written in the first person and using words such as “superstition” and “magic”. I find this ironic, given your accusation of my post as being not based in evidence. If you had cited a systemic review from the Cochrane database, I would lend it more credibility, but again, I am writing for a blog, not a research review. Blogs are anecdotal by nature and are not intended to be authorities on information. HAPS is and should be a friendly community where any topics related to A&P are open for discussion.

      As healthcare professionals in an age of ever-increasing popularity for CAM, we would be remiss to turn a blind eye and dismiss practices such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine. Do we, without question, believe that a therapy “works” because numerous people say it did, if the research lends no support? Of course not. Should we continue to take a look at something with overwhelming anecdotal evidence to support it? I think so. The effect is happening somewhere, otherwise the practice would have died off a very long time ago.

      I hope you now understand what my intention was in meeting the request for this blog. If you do not approve of someone doing a series on CAM, feel free to skip over my posts, but I hope you don’t!


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