Acupuncture has been around for at least 4,000 years in the East—but only widely known in the West for less than 50. Below are five facts about acupuncture you probably didn’t know.
1. A NYT Reporter Let the West Know About It. During a trip to China in 1971, a New York Times reporter underwent an emergency appendectomy. Afterward, doctors used acupuncture to relieve discomfort in his abdomen. He wrote about the experience upon his return to the United States. This sparked interest in the practice in the United States, and subsequently, the Western world.
2. It’s Backed by the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization endorses the use of acupuncture for over 100 symptoms and diseases, including low back pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting, allergies, depression, to relieve the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, and for inducing labor.
In 1997, the United States National Institutes of Health approved acupuncture as an adjunct treatment for nausea and vomiting after surgery, pain in the mouth after dental surgery, and pregnancy related nausea.
3. Licensed Acupuncturists Have Masters Degrees. To become a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac) one must attend a rigorous graduate-level training program for three to four years. After they are licensed, acupuncturists must maintain their licensure with continuing education.
Education to become an acupuncturist includes training in ethics, patient safety during treatments, how to gather their medical history, and how to recognize when a patient needs to be seen by other health care professionals.
Medical doctors can also practice acupuncture, but are required to do far less training. Those who do dry needling also often have much less training than licensed acupuncturists.
4. It’s Covered by Insurance More Than You’d Expect. There is a common misconception that insurance does not cover acupuncture, but this is not true for many plans. According to a report in Acupuncture Today, “As of 2004, nearly 50 percent of Americans who were enrolled in employer health insurance plans were covered for acupuncture treatment.”
With some insurance, patients may be responsible for a copay, while other companies may cover a certain percentage of treatment.
In New York state, most people involved in car accidents and workers injured on the job are by law eligible to have acupuncture treatments covered by insurance.
The Affordable Care Act also made seeking complementary treatments from licensed practitioners, which includes acupuncturists, more accessible.
5. If You’re Needle-Phobic, You Can Still Get Acupuncture. Acupuncture needles are actually less formidable than syringes. They have different widths and lengths, with some only as thick as a hair. They penetrate different depths from only the surface of the skin to about a half an inch below. The amount and type of pain experienced is different for each individual, so if you’re concerned, let your practitioner know and he or she can advise you on the right course of treatment and make sure you are as comfortable as possible during sessions.
Paul Kerzner, L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and owner of Above & Beyond Acupuncture in Scottsdale, Ariz. He graduated from the Arizona School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine with a master’s degree in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. For more information visit: AboveAndBeyondAcupuncture.com