Use of Acupuncture by American Physicians

Published In: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, v. 3, no. 2, Summer 1997, p. 119-126

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1997

by David L. Diehl, Gary Kaplan, Ian D. Coulter, Deborah C. Glik, Eric Hurwitz

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OBJECTIVES: Little is known about the characteristics of American physicians who currently practice acupuncture. We asked: (1) Do the demographics of physicians practicing acupuncture differ from the general physician population? (2) Do these physicians use or endorse other alternative therapies? (3) For which conditions is acupuncture most commonly used? (4) For which conditions is acupuncture perceived to be most efficacious? DESIGN: Mailed survey of physicians who incorporate acupuncture into their practice. PARTICIPANTS: Membership of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA). OUTCOME MEASURES: Demographic information regarding physicians and practice characteristics; specific illnesses treated, and perceived efficacy; use of other complementary modalities; personal reasons for practicing acupuncture. RESULTS: Compared with national data, respondents were more likely to be nonspecialists, in private practice, and age 35 to 54. There was an equal proportion of men and women. Most had been doing acupuncture for < 5 years; most use it on < 25% of their patients. Endorsement or use of other complementary methods (spinal manipulation, herbal medicine, supplements, homeopathy) was common. Acupuncture was more commonly used for pain conditions than general medical problems or addiction management. Reasons for use included: efficacy of the technique, an alternative in cases of inadequacy of standard medical approach, and a multidimensional approach to health care. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians surveyed in this study who incorporate acupuncture into their practice do so mainly to treat pain problems. They are more likely to be in the 35 to 54 age group, nonspecialists, and in private practice when compared with national averages. These physicians are also more likely to use or endorse other complementary modalities.

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