Current State of Acupuncture in USA

By Dr. Dongfeng, AP, DAOM

Current State of Acupuncture in USA


While many acupuncturists believe that the healing technique originated in China in 100 BC, others are of the opinion that it had been in practice prior to the time. But then, over the years, the oriental healing practice has spread around the world, including the US. Health experts say that the ancient remedy was introduced in the US in the 1800s – thanks to the American medical physician, Dr. Franklin Bache.

A great deal of practitioners strongly hold that Dr. Bache, a great-grandson of former US president Benjamin Franklin, not only practiced the traditional remedy, but he also documented his clinical experiences for future references. The accomplished surgeon stumbled into the practice in France in 1825 when he went on vacation in the West European country. He would later translate an acupuncture book to popularize the healing technique. Ever since, tens of thousands of people keep giving it a shot across this country.  


Acupuncture in the US between 1997 and Early 2000


According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), acupuncture is one of the treatment options that keeps increasing in popularity in the United States; this revelation was contained in its 1997 report. The panel sat and declared that it has established enough evidence that the oriental medicine is potent and a need exists for the NHIS to expand its use to the mainstream Western medicine.

By Year 2000, acupuncture had all the sections like every other profession in the US. For instance, there is an active community of specialists, well-established guidelines, regulatory agency, and recognized accreditation institutes. Plus, one 2002 study showed that over 2.13 million Americans had used the traditional therapy at the time. Some 5 years later, researchers conducted another study, disclosing that over 3.1 million US adults had already used the alternative therapy to treat one ailment or another. In other words, this represents a 32% increase in half a decade.

Later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recognized the importance of traditional remedy. As a result, the bureau published job profiles of specialists in the field in its summer quarterly magazine. Years later, the BLS resolved to publish their wages and state-by-state employment stats.

As the demand for the oriental remedy kept increasing, the number of practitioners also grew alongside, bridging its widening demand. For example, stats indicate that there were 10,623 licensed acupuncturists in the United States in 1998. Then, two years later, the number rose to 14,228 licensed specialists. But by 2004, the number of practitioners rocketed to 22,271.



State of Acupuncture in America Today


Without mincing words, the Eastern remedy is gradually going mainstream, giving millions of Americans a wide array of treatment options. The NHIS noted that between 2000 and 2010, nearly 60 million Americans have used acupuncture to treat numerous ailments. In a similar vein, in 2012, the NHIS showed that 3.5 million Americans use the traditional therapy for treating one ailment or another. Two years later, one survey showed that over 10 million acupuncture treatments are administered in the US annually. In January 2018, there were 37,886 acupuncturists in the US. The five states with the highest number of specialists are California, New York, Florida, Colorado and Washington.

Much as these records show a significant growth, the oriental healing technique was not popular with most Americans at the time. This is particularly true given that the number has only increased by 1.5% a decade later. Interestingly, one of major applications of acupuncture is in pain management (stress relief). The stats above show that lots of Americans didn’t consider the traditional remedy as first-line therapy for pain management. That’s because over $54 billion was spent on prescription drugs alone as opposed to $30 billion spent all complementary health techniques in the period under review.

What’s more, several US insurance companies now cover it. With more and more insurance companies jumping on the bandwagon, it is safe to say that the oriental remedy has become more accessible than ever before. As of 2020, many government-run insurance packages like Medicare and Medicaid have already made provision for their users to take advantage of the traditional remedy of oriental medicine. From the foregoing, acupuncture is growing in popularity in the US. But then, while it is the first-line therapy in China, health experts consider it alternative medicine in the US. This simply means there is room for growth.



Like a cyclone, acupuncture is sweeping across the US. Consequently, its future as complementary and alternative medicine is bright. Indeed, there is enough room for the traditional remedy to deepen its roots in the US because hundreds of clinical studies in the public domain have shown that it is potent. In short, in March 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officially gave a greenlight to the use of acupuncture for pain management and went further to hire its practitioners in its robust network. The message is crystal clear – millions of active duty and retired members of the US armed personnel can now benefit from the remedy.

However, the major challenge facing the traditional remedy is that many prospective users lack proper education. Additionally, there are growing concerns that people who ordinarily should try the Eastern healing technique are trypanophobic. However, it must be stated that acupuncture has little or no pain. In fact, those who used to harbor such pet aversion have admitted that the treatment was not as painful as they thought it was. On the bright side, the traditional remedy has all it takes to become the first-line therapy because unlike prescription drugs, it has no side effects. Nobody wants to develop a strange ailment in an effort to treat another. Sure, acupuncture is a must-try for Americans who haven’t tried acupuncture and herbal medicine before.


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