From the day I opened our clinic, I’ve known that becoming an acupuncturist was a good idea for a number of reasons. Findings from a just-published study by the National Institute of Health just gave me another one.
The study, part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) documented the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in 2007 (the most recent stats). They were also able to compare their findings to that of a similar study done ten years ago in order to track trends and changes.
In case you think that alternative medicine is new age, mood ring wearing, tie dyed hooey, the number of Americans using complementary therapies indicate otherwise. An estimated 38.1 million American adults made visits to CAM practitioners in 2007, spending $12.4 billion out of pocket. That’s about one quarter of what Americans spent out of pocket for conventional (Western) physicians’ services. Wow.
There’s more. While there was a decline in the number of Americans who sought care from practitioners of energy-healing therapies and relaxation techniques, the use of acupuncture was up. In fact, visits to acupuncturist was up about 300 percent in the ten years from 1997 to 2007. It’s a great time to be an acupuncturist.
The authors of the study suggested that this increase in the use of acupuncture was due to a variety of reasons. Among them, the fact that a greater number of states license acupuncturists than did in 1997, greater professionalism among acupuncturists, increased insurance coverage for acupuncture, and greater media awareness of acupuncture in the general population. Is there anyone who missed Oprah getting acupuncture during her show or Gwenneth Paltrow’s cupping marks?
From the patients I see in my clinic, I have a few suggestions of my own as to why the use of acupuncture is increasing. Many of my patients come to me because they are disenchanted with their options under the Western biomedical model–basically drugs or surgery. Some are trying to avoid or quit taking prescription meds that have uncomfortable side effects or are trying to avoid (or heal from) having surgery.
Another group of people who seek us out are those who’ve exhausted all of their other treatment options–the ones who have tried everything and are turning to acupuncture out of desperation. Before these people resign themselves to living in constant pain or with chronic illness, they will try acupuncture as a last resort.
A large number of people come to my clinic because they have been referred by a friend, family member, or co-worker. In fact, my greatest source of new patients are referrals from other patients. Essentially, they’ve been told that it works, it’s natural, it’s relaxing, and safe–and they should try it out. They do, and tell their friends, family members, and co-workers.
As I said, it’s a great time to be an acupuncturist.