According to a small National Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) survey (1), an estimated 10% of Americans have tried acupuncture, and of those who haven't, two-thirds would consider it. If true, this would mean about 30 million Americans have tried acupuncture, which is amazing, considering it's only been in the U.S. for 30 years, and there are only about 15,000 acupuncturists, many of whom have only been licensed in the last 10 years. However, data from a 2004 U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services report (2) analyzed responses from a much larger group of Americans (31,044) from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, and found that only 4% had ever tried acupuncture. Still, the same data shows that acupuncture is slightly more popular than homeopathy, four times more popular than naturopathy, and ten times more popular than ayurveda.
Succeeding the now outdated 1997 National Institute of Health's Consensus Statement on Acupuncture is the World Health Organization's 2002 Review of Randomized Controlled Acupuncture Trials. They grouped their results this way:
28 diseases for which acupuncture is undoubtedly effective
63 diseases for which acupuncture has been shown effective but more proof is needed
9 diseases Western medicine can't treat well (proof is weak but acupuncture is worth trying), and
7 diseases in which acupuncture could be tried if the practitioner has sufficient medical knowledge and equipment.
Of course, this is only one kind of research, which answers the question, "Does acupuncture definitely help people with such and such disease?" Answering such questions is complicated by the fact that there is more than one style of acupuncture, and so even if one style doesn't help, if the others haven't been tried, we can't conclude that ALL acupuncture won't help the condition in question.
Plus, there are other types of research that look more specifically at what parts of the body are affected by different acupuncture points. For example, MRI's and PET-scans have shown specific areas of the brain (e.g., the visual cortex, or Broca's area on the left side) activated by specific points. Since different people with the same disease have different issues, breaking the research down into these component parts may provide more valuable information for clinical acupuncture than simply finding out that one or another combination of points helped a certain percentage of people with a specific disease.310
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