Scottsdale Acupuncture


The History of Acupuncture in America in the 1970’s

Posted Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by

acupuncture, america, chinese herbs

Acupuncture is an ancient healing modality.  Depending on whom you ask, it dates back 4,000 or more years.  The practice has been a staple of eastern culture, especially China, for most of that time.  However, its history in America is not as steep, although it is a unique one.

The start of acupuncture in the US, as told by many, dates back to the 1970’s and the Nixon era in particular.  It is documented that in 1972 President Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, traveled to China.  A journalist for the New York Times, James Reston, accompanied him.  While in China, James Reston fell ill and ended up in a Chinese hospital requiring an emergency appendectomy.  Doctors used acupuncture to relieve his pain.

Intrigued and impressed with the effectiveness of the acupuncture treatments, James Reston wrote about his hospitalization and acupuncture in the New York Times.  This exposed countless Americans for the first time to acupuncture.  The folklore states that the rest is history.  However, this is only part of the story, and not actually the inception of acupuncture in America.

Americans began showing interest in acupuncture in the early 1900’s.  They focused more on the notion of tapping needles into the nerves rather than the traditional idea of energy that the practice of acupuncture is centered around.  The Traditional Chinese Medicinal beliefs of acupuncture conflicted with those of the American belief system.  The west focused more on trigger points that were used to stop pain.  Although the popularity of acupuncture in the US was not widespread at this point, its roots had begun to grow in the early 20th century.

Practices such as electrified needles and leaving needles inserted for up to a week were tried.  A lot of emphasis developed on using acupuncture on the ear as well.  It was not until the 1950’s that acupuncture research organizations were formed and the techniques started to be utilized in hospitals.  From there, acupuncture in America grew in scope and depth.

The 1972 experience by the New York Times reporter helped ignite more interest and research into acupuncture, but it was only a growth point in the timeline.  Although it was not the sole spark of acupuncture in the United States, the 1972 the first legal acupuncture center in the US was established.  In 1973, the IRS allowed acupuncture to be deducted as a medical expense.

Acupuncture continued to grow in popularity in the US. In 1992, the US Congress created the Office of Alternative Medicine.  In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) declared support for acupuncture for some conditions.  In 1999, the NIH created the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Acupuncture then became the most popular alternative medicine in the US.  Complementary medicine, which includes acupuncture, is a multibillion-dollar industry with 38 million adults receiving treatments annually, according to a 2009 report conducted by the NIH involving the use of such medicine.  Although acupuncture started small in the US, it has grown to become the norm in helping millions of Americans with untold number of ailments and maladies.