Friday, July 11, 2014

Does Acupuncture Work?

The prevailing view among skeptics is that acupuncture is a pseudoscience. It's said to be based on unsubstantiated spiritual claims and should be considered in the same vein as homeopathy, faith healing and astrology. There have been some conflicting reports over the effects of acupuncture within scientific studies. One BBC documentary made a few years ago claimed that there was scientific evidence that acupuncture had an effect on the brain's chemistry. However, there are many sites claiming that acupuncture is nothing more than a "theatrical placebo."

I'm not convinced either way.

While I don't believe in the claim that we all have a "Qi" or energy field that acupuncture taps into, there is no reason for me to doubt that there could be certain pinpoints on the body that when stimulated can ease pain and certain ailments. The reason why I'm getting acupuncture is to help quite smoking. Since I was in high school I've been an on-again and off-again smoker. I initially started smoking because all the "cool" kids did it, and it soon became a staple of my party lifestyle. I managed to quit for a period of 2 years when I was in college but then it came back with a vengeance and that's where I am today, trying to quit yet again. At the height of my addiction I was smoking nearly a pack a day. And at $14 per pack here in New York that's a very expensive addiction.

I've gotten down to smoking a few cigarettes a day but I can often smoke a lot more if I'm drinking. The worst thing about trying to quit smoking is that the stubborn desire keeps coming back. It's such a psychological addition that it gets to the point where just thinking about having a cigarette makes me happy and puts me in a good mood, and that's what makes it so dangerous. I'm hoping acupuncture can alleviate me of this condition.

I had a health fair at work where I was introduced to an acupuncture therapist and learned that my insurance would cover the costs completely. Since I wouldn't be footing the bill I thought, why not give it a try? And so now I'm using myself as a guinea pig to test out whether acupuncture works or not to cure smoking addition.

My first time I was a little nervous about being stuck with needles but they assured me that they didn't hurt. All you feel is a little sting when they first insert it, and then you almost forget that they're even there. So they stuck me in the necessary places and I laid down and rested for 15 minutes. They also worked on my lower back due to some pain I have there and then they finished me off with a relaxing massage. I've had this done three times now and I'm supposed to have this done everyday for several weeks. It's a little hard to commit to such a schedule so I'm doing it three times per week. Fortunately, the office is on my way home from work.

So, what have the results been so far after 3 treatments? Has my desire to smoke subsided? Am I smoke free? Well it's too early to tell. Acupuncture is not supposed to be a miracle cure that works instantly as soon as they pull the needle out. It's a therapy that can take weeks or months. So far my desire to smoke has not disappeared. It's still there. However, I did actually go a whole day without smoking this week, which I haven't done in a long time. On the first night I did kind feel this urge not to smoke but I'm not sure if it was purely psychological since I'm trying to quit after all. And today I smoked half a cigarette and while I was smoking it I felt disgusting - as if I almost wanted to puke. I felt the urge to put it out shortly after taking my first few drags. Was this the acupuncture working? I don't know. I will need to wait a few weeks before I can say whether the treatments have worked at all.

I'll post a follow up at that time.

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