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The Growth of Acupuncture and its Increased Use in Houston

The Growth of Acupuncture and its Increased Use in Houston

Just 30 years ago, you could count the number of practicing acupuncturists in Houston on two hands. Times have changed, though, and acupuncture is now well-entrenched in Houston – a notable development, as the Bayou City is known for its advanced medical resources and facilities.

Today, with dozens of practicing acupuncturists, Houston is one of the country’s eastern medicine hotspots. That’s no surprise, given the city’s rich cultural landscape – a landscape that includes many Asian influences.

With acupuncture now a mainstream therapy in Houston and beyond, it’s worth reflecting on how the practice got here.

Acupuncture’s History Dates Back Thousands of Years

Of course, the history of acupuncture extends well past the confines of southeast Texas. It’s a part of world history, in fact, dating back thousands of years. About 3,000 years, specifically, but the conceptual roots of acupuncture likely date back even further.

Around 100 BC, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine was published, and this book is the earliest known attempt to organize acupuncture treatment philosophies and protocols. Traditional ideas regarding Qi – the life force or energy that acupuncture seeks to manipulate – were included in this treatment manual, and these ideas still guide acupuncture treatments today.

Acupuncture spread throughout southeast and east Asia over the centuries, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 17th century that the practice was noticed by Europeans. It wasn’t until the 1970s that acupuncture started to become a mainstream medical tool in America.

In Houston, the Acupuncture Scene Expanded Greatly in the Early 90s

Acupuncture gained acceptance among Houstonians faster than most other parts of the country, but there still weren’t many practitioners in the area by 1990. The city’s then-medical regulations hindered acupuncture’s growth. For example, any practicing acupuncturist required sponsorship from a Houston physician to provide treatment. Without this sponsorship, acupuncturists could potentially face jail time.

For several acupuncturists, and their patients, this degree of bureaucracy was too burdensome. They mounted a lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board, and in response, the medical board agreed to create a licensing path for acupuncturists and a separate regulatory body just for acupuncture clinics. This group, the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners, is responsible for maintaining proper health and safety standards in Houston regarding acupuncture practices.

And the board’s qualifications for licensure are significant. They include:

  • A history of demonstrating good character.
  • At least 60 semester hours of college-level coursework. Acupuncture coursework may be accepted if it’s considered equivalent to coursework at a traditional two or four-year post-secondary school.
  • Graduation from a reputable acupuncture school.
  • Has completed (and passed) the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) examination.
  • Has completed (and passed) the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) Clean Needle Technique course and examination.
  • Has completed (and passed) a jurisprudence (JP) examination related to acupuncture licensing requirements, laws, and rules in Texas.
  • The ability to communicate in English. Taking and passing one of the above exams in English can satisfy this requirement.
  • Proof that the practitioner possesses current competence regarding acupuncture treatment. This can typically be demonstrated through full-time practice at an acupuncture school, though this practice must have been provided within the past two years.

This is an exhaustive list, and new practitioners are held to a high standard before they can treat patients. As challenging as these standards are, though, many alternative medicine practitioners have completed the licensing process. As such, the ranks of Houston acupuncturists have grown rapidly in the last 30 years.

And the ranks of acupuncture patients are also growing. Estimates by acupuncture associations in the U.S. suggest that about 1 in 10 U.S. adults have received treatment. While similar numbers aren’t tracked just for the Houston area, it’s likely that the number of acupuncture patients is higher here, compared to the rest of the country. That’s because the Bayou City has one of the country’s largest Asian populations outside of Asia itself.

Acupuncture and Other Chinese Medical Practices are Rooted in Houston’s Considerable Asian Population

For decades, Houston’s excellent work opportunities have attracted Asian immigrants from several countries. The city is home to the third-largest Vietnamese population center in the U.S., and there are major Pakistani and Chinese populations present, too. For more than a century, Chinese immigrants have lived in Houston to some extent, but the number of Chinese people in the Bayou City didn’t ramp up quickly until the 1960s. In the late 60s, the Houston Census identified about 2,500 Chinese living in the city. By 2000, that number had swelled to 20,000. In 2019, the number of Chinese Houstonian’s was over 110,000.

Houston has long prized itself on its cultural diversity, and this is backed by its worldly population. It’s no surprise why acupuncture has taken root in Houston as it’s home to hundreds of thousands of people who recognize it as an important cultural and medical practice.

Today, Acupuncture is in Widespread Use Throughout Houston

Of course, acupuncture’s popularity in Houston is due to its effectiveness. Acupuncture is a proven adjunct therapy for an incredible variety of disorders, including chronic pain problems, headaches, anxiety, depression, fertility issues, insomnia, addiction, thyroid issues, and many others.

Acupuncture is also used to blunt the side effects of some western forms of treatment. As efficacious as drug therapy is, some patients have difficulty continuing treatment if adverse effects are present. As eastern medicine is focused on treating the patient wholistically, it is useful for reducing the overall severity of adverse effects. In this way, eastern medicine and acupuncture are a perfect complement to western medicine. In a modern medical city like Houston, balancing eastern and western medicine is not only desirable, it is also achievable with the emergence of a reputable Houston acupuncturists.


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