Message from the AAMA Board

Acupuncture as a Last Resort
Can we change the paradigm?

I have the pleasure of practicing acupuncture two to four days a week in my outpatient clinic. Since obtaining my certification as a medical acupuncturist via the Helm’s Medical Institute in 2013, I have incorporated acupuncture as part of my clinical practice. As a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, I primarily treat patients with acute and chronic pain. Most of my patient referrals come from specialists who have exhausted all their treatment tools and have placed their patients in the “untreatable” box. Or they come from primary care providers who do not want to start opioids and have done all that they could to manage their patients’ pain. The patients often say to me, “Acupuncture is my last resort.”

I have found that acupuncture, if used alone for the management of chronic pain, is weakly effective. It does wonders, however, if combined with other modalities including diet modification (removal of foods that are inflammatory to the GI system and joints), targeted use of nutritional supplements, weight loss that preserves muscle mass, initiation of an individualized exercise program, use of personalized stress-relieving techniques that the patient can easily incorporate in their daily routine, smoking cessation, and/or limiting alcohol intake. What if this approach was applied from the time of onset of pain? Could many surgeries have been avoided with the subsequent development of post-laminectomy syndrome? Would fibromyalgia be an actual diagnosis? Would we be facing an opioid epidemic?

The practice of medicine has morphed over the years with the advent of technology and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. It is my clinical opinion that we have gotten away from the art of touch, a skill necessary to practice acupuncture. Not to mention that in our current culture, results, including the complete elimination of pain, are expected to occur immediately. For those patients who are looking for a quick fix for the management of their chronic pain, most are disappointed by acupuncture. However, they are often the ones who have no intention of modifying their toxic lifestyles; these are the patients who have signed off acupuncture completely, never to use it again. The patients who recognize that it will take time and are willing to make the changes to improve their health while simultaneously using acupuncture are the ones who get better and give me hope that perhaps the paradigm can change.

The eternal optimist that I am hopes that by the time I retire from the practice of acupuncture and medicine it will be customary for the patient presenting with acute pain to have acupuncture as part of their initial treatment plan, which will automatically include a lifestyle assessment, lab testing for nutritional deficiencies and/or pairing with a health coach, nutritionist and physiotherapist to help them make the necessary lifestyle modifications. What do you think?

Janice Brown, MD, DABMA
AAMA Board of Directors, Membership Committee Chair

Serve on the AAMA Board of Directors and/or Committees

The Academy is a member-driven organization. Members of the Academy serve on the Board of Directors and on Committees advising the Board and make decisions regarding the priorities, programs and activities of our organization. They help guide the future of the Academy. All members are invited to take part in this volunteer governance process. You can take on a small task with a clearly defined time commitment, or you can play a more significant leadership role as a member of a standing committee or as a Board member. Committee volunteers are welcome year-round. The Board of Directors holds elections in the spring each year, when Directors and Officers are chosen by the members to guide the Academy for the following year. If you are interested in being considered for a seat on the Board of Directors, please reach out and let us know. We welcome your inquiry! Learn more.

Upcoming Professional Development & Educational Opportunities

AAMA Annual Review Course
March 18-April 14, 2022

2022 AAPM Annual Meeting: Today and Tomorrow in Pain Medicine: Innovations and Practical Applications
Scottsdale, AZ
March 17-20

2022 AAMA Annual Symposium
Cincinnati, OH
May 5-8, 2022

2022 International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health
Phoenix, AZ
May 23-26, 2022

Bologna, Itlaly
October 14-16, 2022

AAMA Website: Education Listings
The AAMA maintains an ongoing calendar of educational events and professional development opportunities related to medical acupuncture. The calendar is accessible on the AAMA website. Members are encouraged to share events and calendar items from their regions and about educational topics that may be of wider interest among peers and fellow AAMA members.

AAMA News & Announcements

Welcome Our New & Returning AAMA Members

Please join us in welcoming the following new members who became part of the Academy in December 2021.

  • Kristin Blake, MD, LAc, of Monona, WI
  • Carla J Huitt, MD, of Gettysburg, PA
  • Asif Hussain, MD, of Naperville, IL
  • Michael Lor Quast, MD, of Mandan, ND
  • Terry G. Pfau, DO, of Las Vegas, NV

And welcome back three returning members!

  • Christina Gallop, MD, of Salt Lake City, UT
  • Sunil Jain, MD, of Roanoke, VA
  • Layth Maolood, MD, of Ottawa Lake, MI

If you have peers or colleagues who aren’t currently members of the AAMA, please encourage them to learn more about the benefits of membership by visiting the website or contacting Janice Brown, the membership committee chair.

Physicians Complete 10-Year ABMA Certification Process

Congratulations to the following physicians who have completed the process ( set by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA) to be certified as a Diplomate for 10 years:

  • Susan Jin-Sun Park, MD, DABMA of Reno, NV
  • Bireen Whitten, MD, DABMA of Salt Lake City, UT

AAMA Legislative Committee Report

The Legislative Committee continues its work monitoring and responding to legislation relevant to our members and their practice of medical acupuncture. Currently, the committee is monitoring 38 bills regarding acupuncture and dry needling. (See maps below to find out if your state is contemplating any new legislation or regulation.)

Acupuncture Legislative ActivityAcupuncture States 2022-01.png


Dry Needling Activity  

Dry Needling States 2022-01.png

The Legislative Committee will continue to watch for bills that affect AAMA members and respond to the authors and co-sponsors appropriately. We will also contact YOU when legislation in your state may affect your ability to practice acupuncture. In that event, we ask that you write your representatives and senators since they prefer to hear directly from their constituents. If you learn of relevant legislative activity, please connect with the committee by email:

2022 Annual Symposium – Dates, Deadlines & Details

The Annual AAMA Symposium will be held in-person, May 5-8, 2022, at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, OH. Make plans now to re-connect with friends and colleagues at this four-day educational event!

Symposium Objectives

  • Expand awareness of scientific research into the effects of acupuncture.
  • Focus on clinically relevant treatment approaches that can easily be integrated into clinical practice.
  • Introduce attendees to a variety of approaches for the treatment of common conditions seen in clinical practice.
  • Teach attendees new ways to tailor acupuncture treatments to their individual patients.
  • Provide time for networking with leaders, peers and friends who practice medical acupuncture.

Early-Bird Discount

Register now and save up to $50! The early-registration discount ends February 25, 2022. Registrations received after April 1 will be charged the late registration fee. Register now.

Hotel Details

The Annual AAMA Symposium will be held in-person, May 5-8, 2022, at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, OH. The AAMA has negotiated a discounted rate of $184 + tax/night. Register now. The discount expires April 13, 2022, or whenever the room block sells out.

Pre-Symposium Workshops

The following workshops are scheduled for Thursday, May 5, 2022. Attendees may select one workshop as an optional add-on to expand the educational opportunities provided at the Symposium. (There is an additional fee to attend a Pre-Symposium Workshop.) View workshop schedule.

  • Auricular Acupuncture Microsystem presented by Nader Soliman, MD, FAAMA
  • Balance Methods presented by Eileen Yue-Ling Han PhD, LAc
  • Simplifying Constitutional Diagnosis presented by Jeffrey Meyers, MD, LAc
  • 20 Years of Neijing Research presented by Edward Neal, MD, MSOM

Poster Presentations

Members are invited to submit an abstract for a Poster Presentation. Space and time are limited. Poster Presentations must be submitted in English. Deadline to submit is February 11, 2022. Details.

JAMA: Trends in Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture, 2010-2019

From JAMA Network – Research Letter, Complementary and Alternative Medicine

“Acupuncture is recommended as part of comprehensive pain care for low back pain, neck pain, and fibromyalgia by agencies including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Additional evidence indicates that complementary and alternative medicine, including acupuncture, is associated with reductions in total health care spending among patients with chronic back pain.

Research suggests that insurance coverage for acupuncture is inconsistent, although there is a lack of published data concerning coverage in most states.One survey of 45 commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage (ie, Part C) health plans found that only one-third of plans covered acupuncture, suggesting most patients pay for acupuncture entirely out of pocket. When insurers covered acupuncture, cost sharing was higher than other nonpharmacological interventions, and insurers tended to cover few indications and clinician types.

Here, we document trends in insurance coverage for acupuncturist visits using a nationally representative survey. Given Medicare Part B’s 2020 decision to reimburse acupuncture for low back pain, we hypothesized that insurance coverage increased over time.

2022 Medical Acupuncture Review Course (March 18-April 14, 2022)

The Medical Acupuncture Review Course provides an online/virtual, broad-based refresher course on the major subject matter areas with which a well-trained physician should be familiar. The review course is especially useful as a refresher for (1) those who obtained their acupuncture training some time ago and for (2) those who are seeking an organized review prior to taking the ABMA Board Certification Examination.

The overall objectives of the Medical Acupuncture Review Course are for a participant to be able to:

  • Analyze and solidify previously acquired knowledge and experience in medical acupuncture
  • Organize and reinforce understanding of the basic material appropriate for a physician practicing acupuncture in North America
  • Differentiate and examine participant’s previous studies of certain specialized aspects of acupuncture not always utilized in traditional practice

Learn more about the 2022 Medical Acupuncture Review Course now.

Are You Following Us?

Join the conversations online with fellow physician acupuncturists from around the country! You can find AAMA on:

There’s even a closed group on Facebook for discussion between members:

In Case You Missed It Last Month

Order “What’s This Acupuncture About?” Patient Education Brochures

Physicians who offer medical acupuncture treatments as part of their practice may have patients who want to learn more about how medical acupuncture works. This helpful resource is designed for use in medical offices and is perfect for waiting room literature displays.

The AAMA has published the content of this brochure as part of the patient-facing educational resources section of this website.

The brochures are available in English and Spanish. They are sold in bundles of 100; the minimum order is 100 brochures.

Download the brochure order form to view pricing information.

New Scientific Research Related to Acupuncture 


A Review on the Immunomodulatory Mechanism of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

[Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine]

We found that acupuncture could regulate the innate and adaptive immunity of IBD patients in many ways. Acupuncture exerts innate immunomodulatory effects by regulating intestinal epithelial barrier, toll-like receptors, NLRP3 inflammasomes, oxidative stress, and endoplasmic reticulum stress and exerts adaptive immunomodulation by regulating the balance of Th17/Treg and Th1/Th2 cells. In addition, acupuncture can also regulate intestinal flora.

Acupuncture in Family Medicine

[Family Medicine, STFM Journal]

“While walking home from my acupuncture treatment, feeling remarkably positive with a massive amount of endorphins coursing through my body, I decided that this president’s column should continue the theme of expanding interprofessionalism in family medicine by discussing an often-underutilized member of the care team: the acupuncturist.”

The Anti-Inflammatory Actions and Mechanisms of Acupuncture from Acupoint to Target Organs via Neuro-Immune Regulation

[Journal of Inflammation Research]

The anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture on different biological systems are also specific to individual organ microenvironments. As part of its anti-inflammatory action, acupuncture deforms connective tissue and upregulates the secretion of various molecules in acupoints, further activating the NF-κB, MAPK, and ERK pathways in mast cells, fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and monocytes/macrophages. The somatic afferents present in acupuncture-activated acupoints also convey sensory signals to the spinal cord, brainstem, and hypothalamic neurons. Upon information integration in the brain, acupuncture further stimulates multiple neuro-immune pathways, including the cholinergic anti-inflammatory, vagus-adrenal medulla-dopamine, and sympathetic pathways, as well as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, ultimately acting immune cells via the release of crucial neurotransmitters and hormones. This review provides a scientific and reliable basis and viewpoints for the clinical application of acupuncture in various inflammatory conditions.

Note: Some of these news sources may require you to create a free account to read their content, while others may have a paywall.