Message from the AAMA Board

Pragmatic Use of Acupuncture

According to physician census data compiled by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) in 2018 there were 985,026 physicians with Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees licensed to practice medicine in the United States and the District of Columbia.(1) The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture has close to 900 members. If there were five times that number of medical acupuncturists in the country, members of the AAMA or otherwise, that would still only make up 0.5% of all physicians in the United States.

In 2016, the CDC analyzed National Health Interview Survey data and concluded: “An estimated 20.4% (50.0 million) of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults (19.6 million) had high-impact chronic pain, with higher prevalences of both chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain reported among women, older adults, previously but not currently employed adults, adults living in poverty, adults with public health insurance, and rural residents.”(2)

The opioid crisis has faded into the background in light of world events, but it has not gone away. Many communities are being overwhelmed by the prevalence of opioids on the streets. Turning to opioids for relief of pain is a common pathway to addiction. Medical acupuncturists can have a great impact not only on individuals in pain but on our society, as well.

If every physician in the United States saw one patient with some sort of chronic pain a day, five days a week or 20 days a month over the course of one year that would account for 98,502,600 visits where pain was a complaint. Not all physicians have a clinical practice. Not all physicians are practicing medicine. Even taking these factors into account and conservatively halving this number, there would still be nearly 50 million patient visits a year during which chronic pain was a factor.

If all 900 medical acupuncturists treated one patient with chronic pain a day, 20 days a month for a year, 216,000 treatments would be performed. In this fictitious model, which grossly underestimates the prevalence of pain, only 0.4% of patients presenting to a physician with a complaint of pain would be offered acupuncture as a solution.

In today’s world, prior authorization for treatment and referral, wait times, transportation issues, and financial issues regarding co-pays and deductibles all stand in the way of delivering care. This leads to patients suffering with continued and often debilitating untreated pain. Ideally, when a patient presents with any pain, the physician would be able to address the complaint directly and efficiently in real time with a simple acupuncture treatment. Instead, what often happens is delay of treatment while care is deferred to yet another provider and the patient leaves the physician encounter in pain with frustration.

It is not likely that all 984,126 U.S. physicians have the time or desire to commit to 300 hours to become certified in medical acupuncture. Perhaps, however, some number might be interested in having the skills to treat a painful joint, headache or neuropathy if given the ability to do so. If, once a month for 10 months, every AAMA member taught simple skills to 10 other physicians, at the end of 10 months there would be 90,000 physicians, or 11% of the current physician population, in the country with rudimentary  acupuncture skills sufficient to provide on the spot treatment for many common pain syndromes. The impact on the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction could be immediate and profound.

Physician students of acupuncture begin training with a large knowledge and experience base. Many already have attempted if not mastered the skills of placing IVs, arterial lines, central lines, chest tubes and endotracheal tubes, as well as drawing blood gases, injecting local anesthesia and suturing. Acupuncture is minimally invasive and carries much less risk than most procedures physicians learn and practice daily. I propose that teaching needling techniques and key acupuncture points on the face and extremities to such a group of students could prepare them to safely treat several types of common pain complaints. They could then, as Bruce Lee said: “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” If taught during training, residents and fellows could early in their careers gain experience and appreciate the power of even a few simple acupuncture treatments.

Fully trained medical acupuncture physicians need to act now. There are about 68,000 chiropractors in the United States (3). “As of 2019, there were 312,716 licensed physical therapists and 127,750 licensed physical therapist assistants in the United States, according to data from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy”(4).Physical therapy and chiropractic organizations support their members learning acupuncture and incorporating those skills into practice. Physicians establish a relationship with patients as soon as they are together in an examination room. During that time the physician takes ownership of all the patient’s problems. All physicians should be offered the chance to learn simple acupuncture techniques in a few hours. In my facility, at least six of 20 (30%) physicians and advanced practice providers who learned BFA in 2015 continue to use the treatment regularly. All would readily commit to the 300-hour training if given the time and financial support. If 30% of the theoretical 90,000 physicians taught rudimentary acupuncture technique by AAMA members went on to be fully certified in medical acupuncture, that would be 27,000 potential new members of the AAMA.

In 2018 there were reported to be 37,866 licensed acupuncturists in the country (5). The point being made does not regard the availability of acupuncture in the community, either from LAcs or PTs or DCs or MDs or DOs. Rather, if all these practioners with a variety of levels of training and experience are sticking needles in people, then it makes no sense that there should be barriers to physicians incorporating simple treatments into any visit when indicated. There is plenty of pain to go around. It’s like stopping a child and asking them to pick up trash when it’s right there in front of them. We should implant in the psyche of physicians if you see it (pain), you own it and it’s your responsibility to deal with it.

The pure thrill and gratification of holding the needle that made a patient feel better will be enough to inspire many physicians trained at an elementary level to seek out more extensive acupuncture training. Even simple acupuncture techniques employed by a physician knowledgeable about a patient’s issues can have a great outcome. Training for physicians to perform acupuncture should be more accessible and ubiquitous or the art of medical acupuncture will fade into obscurity. Nonphysician acupuncturists with a different perspective of disease will be the only source for treatment.

Michael Freedman, MD, FAAMA
AAMA Board of Directors



1: Young A, Chaudhry HJ, Rhyne J, Dugan M. “A Census of Actively Licensed Physicians in the United States, 2010,” Journal of Medical Regulation, Vol. 96, No. 4: 10-20, 2011

2: James Dahlhamer, PhD1; Jacqueline Lucas, MPH1; Carla Zelaya, PhD1; Richard Nahin, PhD2; Sean Mackey, MD, PhD3; Lynn DeBar, PhD4; Robert Kerns, PhD5; Michael Von Korff, ScD4; Linda Porter, PhD6; Charles Helmick, MD Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  September 14, 2018 / 67(36);1001–1006

3: › chiropractors-united-states


Upcoming Professional Development & Educational Opportunities

Webinar: An Integrative Approach to the Cervical Spine
90-minutes: 1-hour recorded, 30 minutes live
Presenter: Jay Sandweiss, DO, FAAMA
September 22, 2021
8:00 pm ET, 7:00 pm CT, 5:00 pm PT

Applied Kinesiology: Muscle Testing Comes Alive
Weekend Workshop
October 16-27, 2021
Chicago, IL

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 AAMA Members

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

  • Angela Venuto-Ashton, MD, of Roanoke, VA
  • Christine M. Keating, MD ,of New Orleans, LA
  • Sarah M. Strawn, DO, of Saint Paul, OR
  • Sara Marie Metcalf, MD, of Reno, NV
  • Kristina G.Barley, MD, of Joshua Tree, CA
  • Sally Elias, MD, of Longwood, FL
  • Molly Booy, MD, of Fort Wainwright, AK
  • Olivia L. Yost, MD, of Grand Rapids, MI
  • Jaime Ortiz, MD, MBA, of Houston, TX
  • Robert Muscio, MD, of Colts Neck, NJ

And welcome back to the following returning members:

  • Timoth Kaczmar, MD, DABMA, of Santa Rosa, CA
  • Erica D Lovett Fournier, MD, of Grand Junction, CO
  • Deborah Schmidt, DO, of Lewisburg, WV

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 Earn ABMA Certification

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:

  • James J. Arnold, DO, DABMA of Niceville, FL
  • Lakshmi Athota, MD, DABMA of Woodbridge, IL
  • Jamie Kitzman, MD, DABMA of Atlanta, GA
  • Kathryn Peeden, MD, DABMA of Cincinnati, OH
  • Lori Shore- Mouratoff, MD, DABMA, of Oakland, CA
  • Henry Tan Yu, MD, DABMA of Piedmont, SC

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. Of note this month:

  • Delaware AAMA members were advised of proposed changes to regulations regarding supervision of physician assistants employed to perform acupuncture treatments.
  • The Department of Defense is proposing changes to acupuncture treatments through the TRICARE Program (0720-AB77). “Under the current regulations, TRICARE excludes chiropractors as TRICARE-authorized providers whether or not their services would be eligible as medically necessary care if furnished by any other authorized provider. In addition, the current regulation excludes acupuncture treatment whether used as a therapeutic agent or as an anesthetic. This proposed rule seeks to eliminate these exclusions and to add benefit coverage of chiropractic and acupuncture treatment when deemed medically necessary for specific conditions. This rule proposes to add DCs and LACs who meet established qualifications as TRICARE-authorized providers and will establish reimbursement rates and cost-sharing provisions for covered chiropractic and acupuncture treatment.”
  • At this time 37 states and DC permit physical therapists to perform dry needling, six states do not allow it, and seven states remain “undefined.” PT assistants may do dry needling in four states, OTs in 10 states, and athletic trainers in a handful of states. The Legislative Committee believes it is time to update the AAMA’s position paper on dry needling ensure and promote proper training for allied health professionals engaging in this technique.
  • The committee is monitoring the “Acupuncture for Our Seniors Act.” This bill was drafted by the ASA to designate LACs as primary care providers to perform and bill Medicare for acupuncture services. Donna will give an update on information from the ASA conference.

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:

Share Your Thoughts on the 2022 Symposium

The Symposium Committee is developing and planning a great program for the 2022 Annual Symposium. It is currently scheduled for May 5-8, 2022 in Cincinnati, OH. To assist the Committee and the Board of Directors with some decision-making regarding the Symposium, please complete this very quick survey regarding the format of the 2022 meeting. The world environment is constantly changing – your feedback will assist with the decision-making process. Take the survey now.

New AAMA Webinar: An Integrative Approach to the Cervical Spine

Presented by Jay Sandweiss, DO, FAAMA
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
8:00 pm ET/ 7:00 pm CT /5:00 pm PT
90-minute educational event from the AAMA

Attendees will learn how to manually muscle test the major muscles affecting the cervical spine region. Attendees will learn osteopathic manipulative medicine techniques for identifying somatic dysfunctions in the cervical spine region. This could include facet joint restrictions, myofascial restrictions, and muscle spindle-cell dysfunctions affecting the gamma loop. By acquiring these new skill sets of muscle testing and osteopathic manipulation techniques the attendee will have additional treatment approaches to offer their patients. Finally, attendees will learn specific effective acupuncture points for treating pain and dysfunction in the cervical spine.

This is a special webinar from the AAMA and will differ from the usual AAMA webinar format!  Join us for 90-minutes of education.  A one-hour pre-recorded video will be made accessible for viewing that includes demonstrations.  Then return to engage in 30-minutes of live presentation with Q & A.

New NCCIH Lecture Series

The NCCIH Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series provides overviews of the current state of research and practice involving complementary health approaches and explores perspectives on integrative health.”Novel Approaches at the Intersection of Mental Health and Pain” is the theme of a series within IMLS that started in June 2020. Learn more.

Acupuncture May Reduce Pain Levels in Patients with Breast Cancer

Women with early-stage breast cancer who experienced joint pain because of treatment with aromatase inhibitors achieved reductions in pain levels after 12 weeks of acupuncture therapy, compared to those who did not receive true acupuncture, according to recent data. The results, which were presented at the recent 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, also demonstrated that the benefit of acupuncture was sustained for up to one year. More.

Acupuncture Study Published in Annals of Internal Medicine Featured by US News & World Report

  • Annals of Internal Medicine article: Efficacy of Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (LINK)
  • US News & World Report: Acupuncture May Help Ease Prostate-Linked Pain in Men: Study (LINK)

Get Social with AAMA!

We’ve added Instagram to the ways you can follow the AAMA and share your own work and feedback. Look us up and tag us! @aamacupuncture

Don’t forget AAMA is also on:

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

Join the conversations online with fellow physician acupuncturists from around the country!

In Case You Missed It Last Month

Boost Your DABMA Branding with AAMA Certification Mark

The AAMA’s medical acupuncture certification mark represents the AAMA’s commitment to promoting the highest standards of education and training in medical acupuncture. If you are a full member or Fellow of the AAMA with DABMA certification, you may request an electronic file of the certification mark and guidelines for its usage. Upon verification of your status, a jpg file will be sent to you. Email the AAMA. 

New Scientific Research Related to Acupuncture 


Pain and Opioid Use: Evidence for Integrating Acupuncture Into Treatment Planning
[Global Advances in Health and Medicine]
With one in four U.S. hospitals as well as 88% of Veterans Health Administration facilities incorporating acupuncture, the feasibility of mobilizing and scaling up these treatment resources is being developed and demonstrated. We also identify potential facilitators and barriers to implementing acupuncture treatment. As part of a multi-disciplinary approach to pain management and/or opioid use disorder, we suggest that integrating acupuncture into treatment protocols may represent a viable strategy that is based on and consistent with public health principles.


Clinical and Economic Evaluation of Acupuncture for Opioid-Dependent Patients Receiving Methadone Maintenance Treatment: The Integrative Clinical Trial and Evidence-Based Data
[Frontiers in Public Health]
Acupuncture as an adjuvant therapy for MMT patients realizes its cost-effectiveness by reducing the dosage of methadone, improving drug cravings, and alleviating insomnia. It helps to improve quality of life, but since its cost exceeds what society is willing to pay, further study is needed.


MEMBER RESEARCH! Development and Assessment of an Abbreviated Acupuncture Curriculum for Pediatricians
[Academic Pediatrics]
Pediatricians became proficient in two acupuncture protocols with a 10-hour curriculum and found the format and content highly acceptable. Future plans include studying acupuncture implementation and expanding the course to other departments and institutions. (Authors include AAMA members Jennifer Dilts, DO, and Anna Esparham, MD.)


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