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

Milky Way galaxy

One day our acupuncturist, Dr. Eve, was tidying up our clinic when she received an unexpected phone call.

It was her maternal grandfather, calling to apologize.

All of this time, he said, he had thought that acupuncture was nonsense. But at his wit’s end with his low back pain, he gave it a try.

And it worked.

He couldn’t believe that it worked, but it did.

As a physicist, Dr. Eve’s grandfather saw the world through a scientific lens, but he was also well aware that science is not antithetical to mystery. In fact, he used to give astronomy lectures in which he shared the latest findings on dark matter, whose existence has been inferred from gravitational effects; it has not yet been directly seen.

Acupuncture points are not so different. While they too have not yet been directly seen, they have been located through empirical science—through the experience of their therapeutic effects.

Lack of belief in acupuncture only prevents acupuncture from working if it prevents people from even giving it a chance to work. You might hear people describe themselves as acupuncture “converts,” but this just means that they experienced the effectiveness of acupuncture in spite of what at the time was their lack of belief in it.

Experiencing this effectiveness, however, might take time. While everyone dreams of the one “miracle” treatment, you will likely need to receive multiple treatments close together in order to truly see if acupuncture is a good fit for whatever it is you want it to address. If you find that acupuncture doesn’t work for you for one health concern, it might still work for you for another.

Naturally, when Dr. Eve’s grandfather discovered through personal experience that his hypothesis about acupuncture had been incorrect, it piqued his curiosity. When he asked Dr. Eve how acupuncture worked, however, Dr. Eve knew that he wasn’t looking for her to wax eloquent about acupuncture channel theory. He wanted to know how acupuncture worked according to science. It was one of the many scientific mysteries that, at age 93, he died wondering about.

While how acupuncture works, from a scientific perspective, is the million-dollar question, you don’t have to know the answer to experience acupuncture’s priceless benefits.