The History of Acupuncture in the United States

Acupuncture has been an excepted medical practice throughout Asia for thousands of years. The history of acupuncture in the United States is less lengthy.

The History of Acupuncture in the United States

Acupuncture found its way into the United States in the same manner that so many other things have reached this country. It was brought with the immigrants. In this case, it was with Chinese immigrants brought into the West to work on railroads and in the fields. Large Chinese enclaves grew up in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in New York City on the east coast. Acupuncture was a standard form of treatment in these settlements just as it had been back home in China. The Chinese had been using acupuncture for centuries and also had very little trust for Western Medical treatments.

Although there were a few incidents of Westerners becoming involved with the study and practice of acupuncture in the United States during the 19th century, it was never widely practiced outside Chinese areas. It also was never widely accepted. It was considered superstition and totally unscientific and little attempt to understand it was ever made. When the Communist Government started a campaign to rid China of all traces of Classical Chinese Medicine, many acupuncturists made their way abroad. Some of these came to the United States which increased the number, but still little was done to understand and adapt it to Western use.

One of the big turnarounds for acupuncture in the United States occurred during a State visit to China by Richard Nixon in the 1970’s. During this visit, a member of the U.S. delegation was given an emergency appendectomy. The only anesthesia that was used was acupuncture. The President was duly impressed and when he returned to the US, he called for further study of the procedure. It was the beginning of the move of acupuncture from a foreign voodoo-hoodoo type of thing to a respectable and accepted alternative Medical treatment procedure.

In 1994, the Washington Post was reporting that almost 15 million Americans had tried acupuncture. This was almost 6% of the total population. In 1995, The United States Federal Drug Administration classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments. The biggest turnaround came in 1997 when the National Institute of Health issued a report titled, “Acupuncture: The NIH Consensus Statement.” This report stated that acupuncture was indeed very useful in the treatment of certain conditions. It also stated that the side effects of acupuncture were less adverse than those resulting from either surgery or drugs.

The NIH report further encouraged Insurance Companies to give full coverage to acupuncture treatments for certain conditions. This was a major endorsement of the procedure. Today, acupuncture is becoming more and more accepted as an alternative treatment and is gaining acceptance by the Western Medical Community. Some Medical schools including UCLA have begun to offer acupuncture as part of the curriculum.