Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

by Mary Beth Huwe

People often ask me if they must “believe” in acupuncture to receive its benefits. The short answer is “no.” Belief is not required in order for the needles to do their work. You don’t have to know what qi is, or that your gallbladder has acupuncture points on your foot. Many people who have experienced great relief initially came to us feeling either very skeptical or completely unsure of the process.

That being said, there are ways you can participate in the healing process, and actually enhance it. This primarily starts when you begin connecting the dots between your acupuncture treatment and how you feel when you’re not on the table. Similar to exercise and meditation, acupuncture increases a person’s physical and mental awareness – both as independent forces (“Wow, my balance is better. Wow, my mind is clearer,”) and as related entities (“Gee, when I feel anxious, my stomach is also upset.”)

We also notice that people accelerate and enhance their healing when they rid themselves of the negative things in their lives – whether it’s giving up fast-food, getting out of a moldy house, leaving an unfulfilling job, or dropping a miserable relationship. Each of these things powerfully reinjures the qi on a daily basis. Removing such things from one’s life is a powerful augmentation of acupuncture’s benefits.

You can also sabotage your progress. This is quite common in the beginning; people unintentionally run themselves down after they start feeling good again. It can take a little practice, getting used to managing the renewed sense of health. But it should be done, otherwise it’s kind of like winning the lottery and blowing it all.

And sometimes – this is a bit more complicated – people unconsciously slow their progress because they’re actually more comfortable feeling terrible than feeling great. A familiar routine is comforting, and changing that routine can be frightening … even if you hate the routine. Acupuncture can be very helpful in untangling this kind of pattern.

This essay was first posted on It appears here with permission.