Acupuncture Gaining Popularity & Acceptance

By Christina Morris, L.Ac. & Jeffrey Weidmann, L.Ac.

After many years of skepticism and reluctance by the western medical system, acupuncture is becoming a more accepted form of medical treatment in the United States. More and more doctors are referring their patients for acupuncture, and in the past few years hospitals offering acupuncture treatments have more than doubled. Studies show that acupuncture can be as effective as some medications, but without the side effects. Acupuncture is successful in both treating a wide range of health conditions and when used as preventative medicine. The World Health Organization has recommended acupuncture in the treatment of over 43 health conditions.

A common healthcare concern that has become a health-scare, centers on prescription medications. The general public has a widespread reluctance to taking prescription medication due to the many side effects that result from taking these drugs. Some of these side effects have yet to be discovered. This is especially true when certain drugs are pulled off the market for being unsafe. For example, Vioxx, is said to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Although many doctors are still quick to write prescriptions for medications, an increasing number of doctors are now recommending alternative therapies such as acupuncture, dietary modifications and exercise before prescribing medication. There are also an increasing number of patients who are educating themselves on the various healthcare options and are seeking out alternative therapies on their own. According to a 2002 National Health Interview Survey performed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 36 percent of American adults used some form of complementary and alternative medicine in the past 12 months. This percentage has certainly risen since 2002.

Research studies have shown that acupuncture can be as effective or even more effective then some medications. One study published September 22, 2004, in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, confirms that acupuncture is more effective for postoperative nausea and vomiting, than Zofran, a commonly prescribed anti-nausea drug. According to Duke anesthesiologist Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., who led the trial, patients that received the acupuncture had a more comfortable recovery when compared to those who took the anti-nausea medication. Dr. Gan also stated that in areas of nausea, pain control and general satisfaction, acupuncture appears to be more effective than the most commonly used medication, with few to no side effects. Not only was this anti-nausea medication not as effective as acupuncture, but this drug also had caused drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea or constipation. Other than an occasional bruise with acupuncture, there are very few, if any side effects.

Acupuncture is not only limited to people. Veterinarians around the country are taking veterinary acupuncture courses and incorporating acupuncture into their practices. It is interesting to note that animals have no preconceived notions about acupuncture and how it may help them. They don’t know what acupuncture is or what it is for. So when animals are being effectively treated for numerous ailments such as arthritis and respiratory conditions, you know it must really work. “It is not uncommon for animals suffering from arthritis to get immediate pain relief from acupuncture after a single treatment. Animals who come into the office barely able to walk due to pain often leave the office wagging their tails and walking with no problems,” said Dr. Christine Wilson, a veterinarian who performs acupuncture on animals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “It just goes to show that acupuncture is an effective form of treatment whether it’s for a person or an animal.”

With all the positive results surrounding acupuncture, doctors are referring patients to acupuncturists for a broad range of health concerns. “I refer my patients for acupuncture for just about everything: migraines, dysmenorrhea, arthritis, weight loss, etc. The results are very positive, I use it myself,” says Dr. Millicent Comrie, a Gynecologist in Brooklyn Heights. “It really helps reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being.” Dr. Margarita Sassone, also a Gynecologist located in Brooklyn says, “I refer patients for acupuncture for chronic pain, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, anxiety, sinusitis, and respiratory problems to name a few.” Now that doctors, veterinarians, patients, and pets are all seeing the benefits of acupuncture, its popularity and acceptance will continue to grow.