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Can Acupuncture and Yoga Ease Stress?

8 myths and facts from the experts

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Acupuncture is used to stimulate energy flow, promoting improved health and well-being. Jamie Starkey, LAc Lead Acupuncturist, Center for Integrative Medicine, recommends a minimum of one session per week for a total of five to eight treatments until a therapeutic effect is achieved.

“Often, patients will feel immediate stress relief after a treatment session,” she says. “The goal of additional treatments is to make that response long-lasting.”


Here are four common myths about acupuncture and the facts behind them:

Myth 1: Acupuncture is ancient folk medicine; no legitimate healthcare professional would recommend it

Acupuncture is a treatment option currently recommended by many medical institutions, including Cleveland Clinic. Many clinical research trials on acupuncture are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both the NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize acupuncture as a valid treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Myth 2: Acupuncture hurts — after all, we’re talking needles

Although needles are used, they are very slender and fine (about the size of a cat whisker). You may or may not feel an initial prick, sometimes described as a mosquito bite. Any discomfort either will fade on its own or will be relieved as your acupuncturist adjusts the needles.

Myth 3: Acupuncture’s effects are psychological. It doesn’t really do anything

Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture affects the body’s nervous system and immune system, as well as decreases inflammation associated with some diseases. For example, studies reveal that during acupuncture, our brains begin to release chemicals such as endorphins (natural painkillers).

Myth 4: Acupuncture is only useful in treating pain

It’s true that acupuncture helps relieve joint pain, back pain, sciatica, headaches, stomach pain and menstrual cramps. However, acupuncture also is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, nausea/vomiting, chemotherapy side effects, morning sickness, hypertension (high blood pressure), allergies, depression, infertility and other conditions.

Yoga is less about posture and more about what you learn about yourself while in the pose, says Judi Bar, Yoga Program Manager for Cleveland Clinic. “For so many of us, it’s hard to calm down, to practice self-reflection, self-observation and mindfulness,” she says. “The process of contemplative thinking or reflection is about finding more peace in our lives. It’s a more meaningful way of responding to the stresses and situations in our lives.”


Below are four common myths about yoga and the facts behind them:

Myth 1 : You have to be really flexible to practice yoga

Many people become more flexible as they practice yoga. The postures, breaths and meditation teach how to release tension in the body and the mind and help yoga practitioners work toward flexibility. Even if flexibility isn’t attained, people who practice yoga are better for the work they do toward attaining it.

Myth 2: Yoga is only for women

It may seem that it’s mostly women who practice yoga, but more men are discovering how yoga can help them stay fit and reduce stress.  

Myth 3: Yoga is just stretching

The early stages of a yoga practice combine three components: stretching and strengthening poses to release tension in the body, balance muscle groups, and support the body’s systems for better health; breathing practices to steady the breath and oxygenate the system; and meditation (relaxation) to calm the mind. Stretching is more effective when combined with the breathing practices. 

Myth 4: Yoga is a religion

This myth is due to the contemplative nature of yoga. The practice of yoga encourages an open mind and appreciation of a person’s own beliefs.

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Acupuncture for Back Pain

Tags: acupuncture, Catalyst, yoga
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  • Ryan

    I am a man who does Yoga every day and it does help with most of the spasms because of the stretching you do during it of course I have the medication for it as well. However if I can make myself less stiff thats what i am going to do. As my fiance says its not pretty when I do it but it pushes for good health. You don’t have to go to a fancy yoga class to do it neither there are plenty of Online sites that will give you videos for free.

  • Carl Bartecchi, M.D.

    Shame on the Cleveland Clinic for doing and recommending this placebo and even trying to justify it. Where is the evidence that it favorably affects the immune system and decreases inflammation.

  • rieva

    I have postherpetic neuralgia pain from having shingles since first of June 2012. Would acupuncture help this condition?

  • sarah levine simon

    With all due respect, Dr. Bartecchi, you are on a slippery slope. Where is the evidence that constant consumption of ibuprophen etc. decreases inflamation and favorably affects the immune system. Seems to me when I had a back problem a while back, and consumed otc pain relievers, I traded an inflamed stomach for the other problem. Accupuncture did help release grabbing muscles that were contributing to my pain. Then I was able to resume exercise including pilates and Alexander Technique. Whereas if I had popped an advil and tried to exercise, the advil would have masked the pain and I could have done further damage. You need to educate yourself about the uses of this “placebo.” Not to do so, is to harm your patients. Sarah Levine Simon