Is Acupuncture Practical to be Implemented in the Doctor Office?

When President Richard Nixon became the first president to visit Communist China, he was able to observe the Chinese perform a full surgery with only acupuncture as the method of surgical anesthesia.

President Nixon’s physician, (Dr. Walter R. Thach) became a true believer after witnessing what could be done with this ancient medical practice of acupuncture. In fact he highly recommended this form of medicine to be implemented along side of Western medicine – but with a warning:  

“‘I am convinced that acupuncture is going to be one of the greatest contributions that any group of people has made to the future of all medicine, if it is handled correctly by the people of the Western World.”

Shortly after this, acupuncture training became more readily available in the United States, and the certification process for physicians has been around for well over 40 years.

After Dr. Thach’ sage advice, acupuncture was brought to the United States … and there was indeed an evolution of this ancient practice that has thousands of years of proven healing treatments. “But, why mess with a proven ancient practice?” you may ask. “What about the warning of Dr. Thach?” Excellent question.

Traditional vs. Medical Acupuncture

There is a difference between Traditional Acupuncture vs. Medical Acupuncture, although it is rooted in the same history and theory of traditional Chinese acupuncture.

The main difference is the “time factor for implementation”. Traditional Acupuncture is and has continued to be practiced by practitioners of the Art, but not so much in a medical doctor setting.

Until now…

Despite all of these decades, medical acupuncture is mostly restricted to physicians or practitioners who do acupuncture only, and practice on mostly a “fee for service” (no insurance) model. Many usually give up on the idea of using acupuncture in their medical practice because of the time element and limited financial return. In the past, I think the main reasons are the impracticality of doing traditional acupuncture in a traditional medical clinic and the unreliable insurance reimbursement.

But, there have been methods found that can overcome these objections because of advancements the military has been using in the battlefield for their wounded in lieu of I.V. pain medication for well over 10 years now.  It is a form of acupuncture devised by Dr. Richard Niemtzow to be swift and efficient for soldiers severely wounded in battle by inserting small needles into the outer ear. In fact, it has proven to work as well for killing pain as I.V. Morphine. It started with the Air Force, and now all Military Branches use this technique. As a former Air Force Colonel; I used these techniques on my own patients in the military with great success, and is a process fairly simple to teach to the medics in the field.

As I have now moved back into mainstream medicine, after my Airforce retirement… I have taken these new techniques with me and have continued to have great success with my patients in the lay world.

Nothing will ever compete with traditional Chinese Acupuncture and shouldn’t even try.  It is a proven, tried and true method that has been around for 1000’s of years. There is a place for it and I personally highly recommend it, although traditional acupuncture is difficult to implement into the modern doctor office and in many ways impractical. Although, that may soon change.

That being said…  the modern abbreviated methods can certainly fit nicely into a family practice setting and work quite well, although it still isn’t the same as the traditional treatments which takes much longer. The new method is not watered down… but parts of it borrowed from the traditional methods for purposes of efficiency.

I have always looked for more options to help my patients get better and have tried and sometimes stopped doing many things. I would have thrown out acupuncture long ago if it did not clearly and greatly help my patients. I have found success in fully integrating acupuncture into my family medicine practice as an option with every appointment. every day. And, through time, have also developed ways for chiropractic medicine to be implemented into the doctor office setting.

I related this in a recent article in the Annals of Family Medicine (http://www.annfammed.org/content/16/4/367). Now, that is a nice story for my personal practice, but in my opinion,  there is no reason why this should not be the model for primary care medicine through the United States. Anyone should be able to go to their primary doctor and be offered their choice of things like medications, therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture modalities.

In just my clinic alone, offering this had increased demand so much that I have at least 3 overbookings of appointments every day and this is after increasing the number of acupuncture slots several times. Other doctors in my practice love having another options for their patients who fail usual treatments. One other doctor in my practice has conducted acupuncture training, but is realizing that there is no time to do the usual 60-minute treatments as in traditional acupuncture, so I am teaching her how to perform acupuncture efficiently in the clinic. Additionally, through no input on my part….my organization is about to hire a licensed acupuncturist to work in our medical clinic to help handle the booming demand.

If primary care (medical) acupuncture takes off, I could see how (traditional) licensed acupuncturists could feel threatened for market share. I think otherwise. If acupuncture becomes more prominent in your doctor’s office, then insurance reimbursements will improve and will greatly assist medical and traditional licensed acupuncturists alike.

In the past, I also submitted examples of family practice physicians doing skin biopsies, vasectomies, baby deliveries and colon scopes. These have never come close to putting dermatologists, urologists, obstetricians of gastroenterologists out of business, as they still have more business than they can handle.

It is the truth of an abundance mindset, where there is not a limited amount of success to go around. More success breeds more success and brings everyone up… both acupuncturists and patients.

C-Vine News Network Contributor's Corner

Dr. Erik Koda M.D. is a Family Practice Physician in Southern California who has a thriving practice that also integrates Acupuncture with patient care. Dr. Koda is also a retired Air Force Colonel and Flight Surgeon who was in charge of his own Medical Unit. One of the unique aspects about this Air Force Medical Unit, was they implemented Acupuncture directly in the battlefield for pain relief INSTEAD of I.V. Narcotics for a much better, and longer result, (3 to 5 days). The Air Force continues to do this for over 10 years now.  Listen to this fascinating 10 minute interview when Dr. Koda explain’s how it works.