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Chiropractic News

February 2011

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Get to the point

Enhance your practice with acupuncture

By John A. Amaro, DC

When you hear the word “acupuncture,” what usually comes to mind is the use of a penetrating needle inserted into various locations on the body in order to relieve pain or restore health. However, just like chiropractic, acupuncture is a principle, not a specific technique.

It is not how a reflex point is stimulated that is important, just that it is. The most important aspects are what point on the body is chosen to stimulate and why. Needles are only one tool for practicing acupuncture, and they are being replaced today by contemporary forms of stimulation unknown in earlier days.

This stimulation of specific trigger, reflex, and symptomatic points on the body (also known as acupuncture points) may be successfully accomplished by a variety of means. These range from simple pressure, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), inexpensive laser diodes, manual percussion, even ultrasound — all of which fall within chiropractic scope-of-practice laws.

The road to today

Applied kinesiology (AK) has used acupuncture point stimulation since long before the acupuncture revolution of the early 1970s. Dr. George Goodheart in as early as 1967 was utilizing a variety of “acupuncture points” as part of the AK approach to health.

Even though this procedure did not claim to be acupuncture, the same point locations used in classic acupuncture became standard for chiropractic through its use of applied kinesiology. Numerous other classic chiropractic techniques have long used what are now described as acupuncture points.

In early 1972, Columbia Institute of Chiropractic (now New York Chiropractic College) under the leadership of President Ernest Napolitano sponsored the first postgraduate program in acupuncture in the United States. This was shortly followed by programs being offered at National University of Health Sciences, Logan College of Chiropractic, and Texas Chiropractic College.

In the nearly four decades that have passed since those days, it is estimated that close to 100,000 DCs and support staff have taken postgraduate education in this vital healing art.

In 1972 healthcare insurance was virtually unheard of for the chiropractic profession. Personal injury, workers' compensation, and Medicare were still in the future.

The profession existed on its reputation for helping the sick and injured regain health. Inasmuch as there was no such thing as insurance, the DC’s primary goal was to achieve quick clinical success in a variety of conditions.

This was an era before the subluxation was redefined as a “dysfunctional vertebral motor unit” that could only be diagnosed through “motion palpation.” This was also before the profession was thrust into a strict musculoskeletal model with its primary emphasis on low back pain.

In 1972, patients came to DCs for every known condition and were treated with just chiropractic; however, when acupuncture entered the picture, the profession saw an unprecedented acceleration of successful practices as more and more patients sought acupuncture treatment.

In the early days of American acupuncture, it was viewed by the medical profession as quackery, voodoo, or worse. DCs were undeterred by those remarks — as similar terms had been levied at them since chiropractic’s inception; they quickly became the leader in adopting acupuncture into their practices.

A warm welcome

Even though the organized medical profession was unwilling to accept acupuncture, the American press and public embraced it with open arms. Thousands of patients poured into chiropractic practices for acupuncture where they would have never

considered seeking chiropractic for their health conditions.

Interestingly enough, acupuncture has had little to no negative press and its merits have been touted since its initial use in North America.

Acupuncture has always offered the promise of quick responses in difficult cases. The public at large is more than willing to seek acupuncture as it can offer such positive results. Those DCs who incorporate acupuncture into their practices tend to see an influx of new patients.

Today in chiropractic, it is sad but true that due to insurance coverage, Medicare, workers' compensation, and the general chiropractic educational system, it is the rare DC who will accept any patient with a condition other than musculoskeletal. By favoring one specific type of patient, the profession has redeveloped around the insurance business model.

In years past it was common to treat numerous conditions of the endocrine, digestive, respiratory, blood vascular, and other systems of the body with chiropractic. That was lessened by the advent of insurance and a new approach developed from chiropractic politics and a desire to achieve medical and scientific acceptance.

Today, chiropractic is considered a musculoskeletal profession. On the other hand, a patient who seeks a holistic resolution of a somato-viscero health problem is more apt to seek an acupuncturist than a DC.

An enormous market

If you review the last 50 new patients who enter a typical chiropractic practice, the number who are not taking a drug for health conditions — other than the one bringing the patient to the practice will likely fall around the 5 percent to 7 percent mark (which is the national average).

This means the person seeking care in the practice for a low-back condition may also suffer from myriad conditions that acupuncture has been known to help. The patient may very well seek the service of acupuncture for that condition as well as their low back condition, which is often effectively treated with acupuncture.

While chiropractic funnels the conditions we see into a small musculoskeletal area, acupuncture with no restrictions has the opportunity to expand and encompass the chiropractic practice.

Due to acupuncturists’ general preference for needles and complicated traditional Chinese medicine procedures, their practices will be restricted as the general public is not keen on the multitude of needles often employed in these procedures.

Scientific stimulation devices, while unusual for acupuncturists, in the hands of a well trained DC, can turn any practice into a vibrant, energetic, high-referral healing clinic.

Acupuncture is easy to learn, easy to incorporate, takes little time to administer, and can be compatible with chiropractic principles and procedures. It may be billed when administered through such noninvasive means as “TENS,” trigger point therapy, manual therapy and more.

Of course, when utilizing at least one needle, it may be billed officially as “acupuncture.” The World Health Organization has recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment for a number of conditions in different categories.

Learn acupuncture and begin benefiting from the positive response of increased accelerated healing and increased referrals. Your patients will be pleased you did.

John A. Amaro, DC, is a founding member of the American College of Chiropractic Acupuncture of the American Chiropractic Association and is the president of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture. He conducts fellowship (FIAMA) and diplomate (Dipl.Med.Ac.) certification programs for physicians of all disciplines. He can be contacted at DrAmaro@IAMA.edu or through www.IAMA.edu.

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