Although used for thousands of years in the ancient world, acupuncture’s entrance into our modern medical system is a relatively recent phenomenon. When President Nixon opened relations with China in the 70’s, acupuncture entered the US by way of New York Times reporter James Reston, who traveled with the president on his historic visit to China. Reston received acupuncture after an emergency appendectomy, and wrote about it upon his return. An explosion of interest in acupuncture followed. In 1996 the Food and Drug Administration approved the acupuncture needle as a medical device; and in 1997, an NIH consensus report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shared positive evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture, at least in a limited number of conditions, and led to widespread acceptance.

Clearly acupuncture is not just for pain anymore. Anxiety, depression, insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders are some of the many reason patients seek acupuncture. In recent years the acupuncture “face lift” has become popular in some spas to tighten the skin around the eyes and lips without injections.

Acupuncture popularity has increased to such an extent that over the last 30 year some 6,500 US physicians have been trained in the art of Medical Acupuncture. This designation is given to medical doctors who seek advanced training in acupuncture. More recently the US military has appreciated the benefit of Medical Acupuncture and its use in our wounded warrior population to decrease narcotic use and to treat difficult conditions like PTSD, TBI and phantom limb pain.

These days many insurance companies are covering up to 20 visits a year for acupuncture care provided in most cases by a medical acupuncturist. For more information about Medical Acupuncture, visit the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture website and the Acupuncture page on our website.

Note: Dr. Safayan is one of the leading medical acupuncturists in the United States. He is a senior faculty member and the Preceptor in charge of the Helms Medical Institute, which provides medical acupuncture training for both civilian and military physicians in the use of acupuncture for common medical conditions as well as PTSD and TBI.

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