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Natural Awakenings

West Meets East: More Americans Are Embracing Acupuncture

Oct 05, 2011 06:15PM ● By Lee Walker

During the past 10 years, acupuncture physician John Patton, who also works as a licensed mental health counselor in Naples, Florida, has noted a change in attitude by clients who come for treatment.

“I used to see people who were mostly trying acupuncture because nothing else had worked. Now, clients are educated and more health-conscious; they are taking responsibility for their health,” he says. Patton observes how many people are seeking to minimize the impact of aging, so that they can enjoy the best quality of life through their later years. “They have come to view eastern medicine as an avenue of preventive health care and maintenance.”

According to the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), which celebrates Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day on October 24, the practice comprises a system of therapies that have been used to treat illness and diseases for more than 2,000 years. Of these therapies—which include diet, nutrition, herbology, lifestyle counseling, T’ai chi and qigong exercise—acupuncture has taken hold as one of the most popular here. The association, which licenses doctors of Oriental Medicine (O.M.D.), has been working since 1981 to integrate this time-honored system of health care into mainstream care in the United States. It begins by focusing on the factors that cause disease, rather than just treating symptoms.

Christine Kaiser, a second-year acupuncture physician and O.M.D. resident at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, also attests to the growing interest in acupuncture. “Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the largest natural medicine clinic in the state, serves as the teaching clinic for the University,” explains Kaiser. “Its residents conduct clinic shifts at several outreach medical facilities in Seattle. The western medical community now seeks us out and we regularly work closely with allopathic doctors and their patients.” She notes that one student recently relocated to Minnesota to work with the Mayo Clinic.

Oriental medicine acknowledges qi, the body’s vital life force that streams along pathways related to organs and the muscular and nervous systems. It operates on the premise that trauma, poor diet, medications, stress, hereditary conditions, environmental factors or excessive emotional issues all can disturb the balance of qi, leading to pain and illness. Acupuncture is one way to help balance qi.

Acupuncture is used to diagnose, treat and prevent illness, stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself. The modality employs extremely fine, hair-thin, flexible, sterile single-use needles that the licensed practitioner places at specific acupuncture points, or meridians, on the body, each corresponding to a pathway of qi. The length and frequency of treatment varies for each individual, and treatments are scheduled according to the nature of a condition. With improvement, fewer visits are required.

Xiu Qiong Cen, O.M.D., an acupuncture physician with the Acupuncture Center of Naples, has been practicing for 25 years. “Acupuncture is considered preventive medicine in China,” she affirms. “The philosophy for treatment emphasizes that a good doctor treats a patient when they are not ill.” However, Qiong Cen advises, “It is also a proven remedy for acute or chronic ailments, relieving pain, enhancing recuperative powers and strengthening the immune system.”

A recent study by the University of Maryland Medical School reported in the British Medical Journal, indicated that acupuncture might even aid in vitro fertilization, increasing the success rate by 65 percent.

Jonathan Wald, assistant dean at East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota, Florida, also reports that the school has experienced an increase in student enrollment for its 3,103-hour program of study in Oriental Medicine (OM). Classroom and practical study includes the philosophy, theory and clinical application of Oriental and Western medicine.

“We have noticed that nursing students today are showing an interest in forms of eastern medicine,” says Wald. “They like to combine the knowledge they gain here with knowledge of western medicine.”

Individual states have the jurisdiction to regulate the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. The National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine oversees a national examination and certification process.

For more information, visit these websites: the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine,; Bastyr University,; East West College of Natural Medicine,

Connect with John Patton at 971 Michigan Ave. in Naples, or call 239-262-6828.

Connect with Xiu Qiong Cen at Florida Health Academy Acupuncture Center of Naples, 261 Ninth St. S.,  or call 239-263-2322. 

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