Acupuncture: Ancient Chinese Torture?

Acupuncture Intro Pic

Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. As part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture aims to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body.

Last year, after suffering from chronic pain in my lower back and left scapula for more than a year, I decided to give it a whirl. I’d tried everything else I could think of, but so far, nothing had worked. So I asked around, found just the person, and made my appointment.

After a lengthy questionnaire and a physical examination, Dr. Wu recommended a 3-step treatment. We would start with a technique called Scraping, then Cupping, and if I was still in pain, she’d pull out the big, bad 7-Star Needle. I didn’t even want to ask.

Scraping, also called Gua Sha, involves applying repeated pressure strokes using a round-edged instrument over the injured (and surrounding) area.

The process of scraping is moderately painful, but I’m pretty tough so I sucked it up like a champ. Until later that night when I was changing into my jammies and my husband nearly shrieked. “What? What is it? Is there a bug crawling on me?” I asked. “What the hell happened to you?” he asked. I looked at my back in the mirror and what I saw was something similar to this:

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Photo courtesy of Google Images

Cupping is another method aimed at mobilizing the blood flow in order to promote healing. It’s not nearly as painful as the scraping, but it does involve fire. I don’t like fire. Well, I do, just not anywhere near my skin. Since I had no clue what they were actually doing, I downloaded the following video to see what it actually entailed:

I had lots of cool-looking circles on my back afterward, and this time I forewarned my husband that I’d been to Dr. Wu that day.

A week later, my pain had not receded in the least, so Dr. Wu pulled out the big guns, also known as The 7-Star Needle. Before I laid myself face down, I glanced over at the table at the 7-Star needle. Big mistake. Now I was afraid.

Photo courtesy of globalmedhk
Photo courtesy of globalmedhk

The process, which is clearly modeled after ancient blood-letting, went something like this: jam the needle into the affected area, wait for patient to stop screaming, suction off blood, repeat several more times.

After only one round (there were two more to come), I decided that acupuncture was not for me and I would not be coming back to see Dr. Wu again. Ever.  Assuming, of course, that I still had any blood left in my body and was actually able to escape my torturers.

How about you? Have you tried acupuncture? Have you achieved success with it? I want to know!

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7 comments on… “Acupuncture: Ancient Chinese Torture?”


  1. Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy


    YIKES! Those all look and sound like torture, Suzanne! You are a LOT braver than I am.

    However, I did have a very good experience with acupuncture when I had an inflamed nerve in my jaw. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming with pain. This went on for over a month while I shuttled to various doctors who did nothing for me. I had a Chinese exchange student living with me at the time and he suggested I try acupuncture. I agreed, and he found a traditional practitioner for me (I don’t remember if the guy even spoke English).

    My treatment consisted of the acupuncturist sticking about two dozen long, thin needles in the side of my face. Some had incense or something on the ends which he lit. After three treatments, my pain was gone! That man did more for me in three treatments than a half-dozen “western” doctors had done in weeks! Oh, and I didn’t bleed a drop, thank goodness!

    AC

  2. Scraping, cupping (with fire) and needle pounding – let me give that some thought. Um. No thank you.

    It’s all about drugs for me. Just give me something to ease the pain and I’m a happy girl.

    Goodness, the things we consider for good health and feeling lively.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  3. It sounds absolutely horrid – I know people swear by acupuncture and they may tell you, you just went to the wrong person. But after reading this blog, thank you, I think I will pass.


  4. Richard Prusakowski


    Hi Suzanne:
    You have my deepest sympathies. From what you went through, the therapy does sound like torture.
    I have read about 65 position papers for and against acupuncture and have come to the conclusion that under no circumstances would I ever agree to this therapy.
    I have seen three massage therapists for a leg injury that I got while I was on vacation. All three told me that I needed acupuncture. With massage therapist number 3, I told her right at the start, that acupuncture was not an option. Then later she recommended it, and I told her off. She tells me that the needles are placed just under the skin. I don’t believe that because I saw somewhere on the web the results of an acupuncturist piercing someone’s lung. I am a musician and use my hands and feet. A wrongly-place needle could end my career.
    Where I live, limited acupuncture can be done by massage therapists or chiropractors if they have taken a course on acupuncture of approximately 15 days in length.
    I just want to conclude by saying that the only people who will put needles in me are doctors or nurses under a doctor’s supervision.
    Also, my doctor has strongly recommended that I not have an acupuncture treatment.

    • Hi Richard – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I actually am a believer of acupuncture (it’s hard to argue with a practice that has been around for thousands of years), and chiropractic, but I am also a fiction writer. I assure you that everything I wrote in this post is very true, but I might’ve exaggerated the experience a tad for the sake of the story 🙂 I’m the first to admit that I’m afraid of needles in general, but when I’ve exhausted all other treatment options, I’m willing to try things outside of my comfort zone in order to get relief (case in point, seven-star needle). I hope my experience won’t prevent you from doing the same. Have a great new year. Hope to see you here again.


  5. Richard Prusakowski


    Hi Suzanne
    I guess we can agree to disagree about acupuncture. Acupuncture is something that I did not grow up with, and the idea of someone stickling needles into my face, back, feet etc. to me is totally gross. My doctor is very against my having it because whenever someone sticks a needle in to me, I am so paralyzed with fear and extreme pain, I cannot talk. He is also concerned that were I to agree to acupuncture, I could suddenly go in to shock during the treatment. Most of those who do acupuncture are not doctors and would not know how to bring me out of shock. My doctor’s advice is to leave it alone.
    I do believe in chiropractic and I do believe in massage and those are two therapies my doctor thoroughly supports. The young lady I currently see for massage uses something called the “Graston” technique. It is a series of tools that are scraped against the part of the body where the scar tissue exists and gets rid of the scar tissue. On one treatment, my feet were in extreme pain. After using the “Graston” technique, my feet had absolutely no pain. This massage therapist does not do acupuncture, but her massages are absolutely wonderful. I want to conclude by saying before massage I had a lot of pain everywhere. After seeing this one massage therapist and my chiropractor, I have absolutely no pain whatsoever.

    • I’m so glad you found something that works for you Richard. I love deep tissue massage. They’re sometimes painful but very therapeutic.

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