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Acupuncture in the Mainstream

Just a few decades ago, most Americans viewed acupuncture as a foreign practice.  The general public was skeptical of acupuncture. However, lately, more and more Americans are opening their minds to this “alternative medicine.”  There has been a steady growth in the number of acupuncturists over the last few decades. Organizations like the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have begun to perceive acupuncture as a type of medicine, rather than some sort of eccentric ritual.  As some Americans are losing patience with unsuccessful Western treatments, they are turning toward acupuncture.  Even celebrities are trying acupuncture and are reporting its benefits.

Acupuncture has been used in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years.  Its function is to insert extremely thin needles into specific points of the body in order to facilitate the flow of qi (life energy).  Rather than focusing on the obvious health issue of a patient, an acupuncturist focuses on the entire body and realizes that in order to treat the specific problem, and to maintain the person’s health after the problem is treated, he or she must create a balance of qi within the entire body.  This method of practice is slowly evolving into mainstream America.

Recently, many Western medicine clinics have integrated acupuncture into their practices.  The FDA approval of the use of acupuncture needles by licensed practitioners in 1996 may have contributed to Western doctors being less skeptical of acupuncture.  Even some insurance companies are now covering certain acupuncture treatments as they are recognizing the health benefits of acupuncture.  The general public also recognizes its health benefits.  According to a National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 8.2 million adults in the U.S. have used acupuncture, up from 2.1 million from the previous year.

One of the reasons acupuncture may be becoming more popular in America is because of its ability to treat health problems that are important to Americans: erectile dysfunction, drug addiction, infertility, nausea, back pain, and many more conditions are alleviated with acupuncture.  In addition to physical problems, acupuncture can help with emotional problems like stress and depression.  The World Health Organization stated, “Acupuncture has been proven effective in relieving postoperative pain, nausea during pregnancy, nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, and dental pain with extremely low side effects. It can also alleviate anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia.”  Many Americans, who are fed up with taking countless pills, especially like the fact that the side effects of acupuncture are little to none.  They don’t have to worry about side effects that exist in many pharmaceuticals.

Even celebrities have been turning toward acupuncture.  Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, has said that acupuncture has helped her to get to a new level in her life.  It has helped her to cope with her father’s death. Kate Winslet received acupuncture treatment during the birth of her child.  Other celebrities, such as Kate Moss, Madonna, Neve Cambell and Cher have all been reported to have used acupuncture.

Many sports celebrities also use acupuncture for sports injuries.  Both Jerry Rice and Steve Young, former San Francisco 49ers players, received regular acupuncture treatments for sports related injuries.  NBA’s Shaquille O'Neal has also used acupuncture.  Professional golfers like Michele Wie and Fred Couples receive acupuncture treatments, as well. Even Oprah Winfrey received an acupuncture treatment – on national television – helping millions of Americans become more aware of the benefits of the treatment.

Acupuncture is expected to continue growing in America in the upcoming years.  More and more studies on acupuncture are being conducted with positive results. Since there are minimal, if any, side effects, and as more cases and studies are done that will give more validation to this ancient treatment, it is easy to envision acupuncture as a common practice in many U.S. hospitals in the near future.

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