Updated: July 2nd, 2020

In the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m often asked “how is work going?”  This exchange usually leads to the person asking me: “How can your students do acupuncture via telehealth?  You can’t needle someone through a screen.”

That statement highlights a widespread misconception of acupuncture.  Most Americans don’t realize it is but one tool in a larger medicine; most think of acupuncture as “treatment with needles.”  What else can an acupuncturist offer without their needles?  The simple answer: A lot.

Part of the underlying wisdom of Traditional Chinese medicine is its focus on self-care and health promotion.   Acupuncture students are educated in movement therapy such as qi gong and T’ai chi; they can impart dietary advice; lead people through breathing exercises and body awareness techniques, and some can offer herbs.   Additionally, students are able to guide patients through self-applied acupressure treatments.

It is also important to highlight the amount of established research supporting the effectiveness of these interventions.  T’ai chi and qi gong have shown benefit in addressing some chronic pain conditions1 as well as improving health-related quality of life outcomes2.  There is also emerging evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of qi gong to ease stress and anxiety3.  Other self-care techniques and dietary advice has shown to empower patients to make healthy behavioral and lifestyle changes4.

Both the global pandemic and the social justice movement are prompting many people to seek out health positive, health-promoting self-care techniques and information.  Now more than ever it is important to turn to practitioners that have fundamental knowledge in medicines and techniques that have persisted for thousands of years.  Medicines and techniques that have helped an untold number of people through similar times.  I can’t think of a more important time to seek out an acupuncturist via a telehealth visit.

Sources:

  1. Bai Z, Guan Z, Fan Y, et al. The effects of qigong for adults with chronic pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Chin Med 2015;43:1525–1539.
  2. Kelley GA, Kelley KS. Meditative movement therapies and health-related quality-of-life in adults: A systematic review of meta-analyses. PLoS One 2015;10:e0129181.
  3. Wang C-W, Chan C, Ho R, et al. Managing stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014;14:8.
  4. Harvie A, Steel A, Wardle J. Traditional Chinese Medicine Self-Care and Lifestyle Medicine Outside of Asia: A Systematic Literature Review. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(8):789-808. doi:10.1089/acm.2018.0520