Acupuncture’s Acceptance in America

Acupuncture has been used in China and Japan for centuries, and was introduced into Europe in the 1700s by Jesuit missionaries. However, it has been popular in the United States for only the past twenty or thirty years. Initially, its most dramatic and effective results here in America were to reduce or eliminate pain, where some patients undergoing surgery had no anesthesia whatsoever. Their pain was eliminated during the surgery by use of acupuncture needles.

The National Institute of Health has been interested in both the use and the growing interest in acupuncture, and has had a number of conferences whose main subject is the use of acupuncture. Interestingly, thousands of traditional physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners now use acupuncture for pain relief and other symptoms. Also, currently more than 10 million adults in the U.S. have used acupuncture at some time in the past, or are using it currently. (Though acupuncture is also perfectly safe for children, and frequently children respond more quickly to the treatments than adults.)

The National Institute of Health has looked at many studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture to relieve a specific set of symptoms. There are some outstanding successes, but making any sweeping statement is difficult because many of the studies are not easy to design. Or, more properly, there is some heated discussion on what studies have been so carefully designed that the results are beyond question. But there is general agreement that acupuncture is highly effective for a wide range of symptoms, including pain and nausea after operations, headaches, menstrual cramps, asthma, osteoarthritis, etc.

Research is continuing and new results are coming out quite often. One of the best ways to keep up is to search the Internet for your symptom of interest together with the key word "acupuncture". Also look for websites sponsored by NCCAM, a branch of the National Institute of Health that investigates alternative medicines.

Since the main equipment of an acupuncture practitioner are needles, the needles in an acupuncture office are regulated by the government to ensure safety of the needles. The FDA approves their use by licensed practitioners in acupuncture clinics. The requirements are that the needles are sterile needles and one time use only, so no one need be concerned about the problem with needle contamination. The acupuncture needles are regulated by the same rules as those in your doctor's office. To avoid any concern, watch carefully that the acupuncture practitioner opens a new, sealed package for each patient and swabs the insertion sites with some kind of disinfectant before inserting the needle (such as alcohol, traditionally used by nurses).

This survey is intended to give an overview of how the traditional medical community and also the institutes of the government have given credibility to the use of acupuncture. Acupuncture has evolved from an interesting import from China to an established technique that many doctors recommend, or have even become trained in the technique themselves. Acupuncture clinics and practitioners now have standards set up and regulated by the government in order to ensure the safety of the clients. It has become an accepted part of the mainstream American health system.