Acupuncture in Western Society

Off The Cuff:  A consumer viewpoint of Acupuncture in an American medical system.

The Tree from which Acupuncture Comes from
Acupuncture has been an integral part of Chinese culture through the centuries since ancient times. The Chinese have used many modalities in effort to cure the ill health. Broadly speaking, Chinese Medicine can be divided into several basic areas: Acupuncture, Herbal, Dietetics, Massage, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Qi-Gong (Personal Energy cultivation), Lifestyle, and Feng-Shui (harmonizing with ones environment). To a large degree, Asian martial arts is intimately connected to all of these medicinal arts though the opposite is not necessarily true.

A professional who practices the traditional Chinese medical modality of Acupuncture can be as generalized or specialized as he or she cares to be as they can be influenced or experienced in any combinations of the above mentioned medical modalities. Acupuncture itself has a myriad of systems (i.e. Channel-based, 5 Element, Scalp, Auricular, and many others).

Professional Turf Wars & Cultural Acceptance
Not all “traditional” Chinese medical techniques are recognized in the United States due to cultural practices, inter-profession conflicts and legal and insurance limitations. The various established professions work hard to draw the line between their fields and where Chinese Medicine may overlap, and, conversely, this includes when Western professions have adopted the use of acupuncture-type techniques such as using non-hypodermic needle therapy which should fall under the realm of a Licensed Acupuncturist.

Moreover, Licensed Acupuncturists in the United States, unless they’ve earned a Doctorate of Oriental Medicine (DOM), cannot market themselves as “Doctors” or “Physicians” although “Doctor” is common parlance used by Acupuncturists’ patients. By plain definition  (meaning non-American-medical-system-and-insurance-legalese), an Acupuncturist can fill the role of a physician, as Acupuncturists are able to promote, maintain and restore health, diagnose symptoms and treat conditions, this is what Acupuncturists actually do even when engaged in simple pain management… just don’t expect to see “doctor” on his calling card or website.

Early Mass Media Exposure
Since President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, pain management has been the most commonly publicized and accepted use of Acupuncture in Western society. The public was amazed by a patients having abdomen surgery while being conscious and under the influence of acupuncture-based anesthesia.

This exotic publicity helped Acupuncture gain broad awareness in Western society but only in the scope of managing pain symptoms. Nowadays,  as a patient in most Western hospitals it is rare to hear a doctor refer you to an acupuncturist even if pain is your chief complaint.

Institutional Limitations
Even when a large medical facility has an acupuncture staff, it is not in the protocol of MD’s to prescribe acupuncture, you’ll need to request it if it is not voluntarily offered. The use of acupuncture in a Western Institutional setting can be so specialized it may fall under mental health or other less visible department.

Even a Physical Medicine department, which specializes in handling musculoskeletal issues which Acupuncture (as a non-pharmaceutical based therapy) would normally be well adapted to, it is only recommended if the particular MD is cross-trained in Acupuncture. Generally speaking, You’ll need to go to an integrative clinic which incorporates Eastern and Western medicine to get a seamless protocol driven referral from a Western MD to acupuncture therapy.

Acupuncturists as a Hub
Acupuncturists can refer their patients for Urgent Care, imagining (i.e. X-Ray, MRI etc) or for labs (i.e. Blood panels) or to other interdisciplinary health fields (i.e. Chiropractors, Social Services, Mental Health). Referrals to other outside services are not always necessary, it depends on the assessment of patient symptoms or the diagnosis and whether treatment fall under the scope of practice of an Acupuncturist.

A professional Acupuncturist in the United States is certified to perform “Clean Needle Technique” or a quality assured method of needle types, insertion, manipulation and disposal in a way that is safe for the patient and environment. Additionally, since acupuncture relies on the restoration or rebalancing of the body’s natural healing processes, there are no adverse affects related to introduction of harmful exogenic substances that may be found in pharmaceuticals.


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Blogger’s Note:  Acupuncture can also be used to detoxify by helping regulate body functions used to eliminate and process toxins. If you are a student studying for the State or National Boards , please consult your textbooks for official answers!


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About challenyee

Bringing Acupuncture Mainstream - One Talk at a Time
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