A Spike in Acupuncture Numbers, 2007 NIH survey.

The National Institute Of Health has just published the results of its 2007 survey on the usage of CAM ( Complementary and alternative medicine). Its last one was published in 1997 and there have been some signifigant changes in acupuncture usage, CAM usage and what we spent our out -of – pocket health care dollars on in 2007.

The survey is a big one and came from the conducting of personal interviews with 23,393 adults . It was conducted by the CDC and the Center for Health Statistics  and considered a relatively well designed and executed survey by those doing designing and executing those things!.

I will summarize a little of the contents of the survey that may pertain to CAN members.

Americans spent 33.9 billion dollars on CAM practioners, products, classes and materials in 2007.

This represents only 1.5% of total health care expenditures in the US in 2007.

Approximately 66% of this was spent on products , classes and materials (self-care, visits and supplements)

33% was spent on visits to CAM practitioners.

38.1 million Americans made 354.2 million visits to CAM practitioners in 2007.75% of these visits were to manipulative and body based therapies (chiro, MT mostly I surmise)

Each person who used CAM spent about $121.92 on visits to CAM providers in 2007 and paid $23.37 out of pocket for each visit. The majority of visits amounted to less than $50.00 per visit with only 20% paying more than $75 out of pocket per visit . Chiropractic accounted for the least out of pocket outlays.

11.9 billion was spent on visitors to CAM practitioners which represents only 25% of out of pocket spending on physicians visits 

There was an overall drop in visits to CAM practitioners in 2007 compared to 1997 but visits to acupuncturists went up by 3X their 1997 levels from 27.2 visits per 1000 adults to 79.2 visits per 1000 adults.  The study attributes this to “a progressively more regulated and professionalized CAM practitioner group” and ” large numbers of articles in the lay press about the benefits of acupuncture and increasing awareness in the general public” as well as “increased insurance coverage for these therapies”.

 So I will leave it for others to tease out meaning from this survey but a few things that struck me were:

  •  The decrease in visits to CAM practitioners since the last survey.
  •  The small drop in the bucket that is the 1.5% of the total health care expenditures of 2007 that was spent on CAM practitioners, products, classes and materials.
  •  I wondered if CA could be a small or more significant part of the rise in Acupuncture visits. 
  • The reasons cited for the jump in acu visits could come right out of an acu establishment press release.
  • There are a lot of people out there not getting any sort of acupuncture.
  • CA usage is only out-of-pocket .
  • How can CA contribute to raising the amount of visits to acupuncturists in the next 10 years?  We still need exponential growth to even start to meet the need out there for acupuncture in our communities.
  • There is a deep vein of information in this survey to be mined by someone in CAN. We wanted some data and here is some to ponder over.
  • So people saw more acupuncturists…… but in significantly fewer numbers than they saw MTs and Chiropractors (75% of all visits to CAM providers were to manipulative or body-based therapies).  All CAM provider visits were only 25% of those to physicians in general. 
Author: priceless

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


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  1. First thing I note

    If I am reading this right there were 17,629,000 visits to an acupunk in 2007. Total visits, including visits to school clinics which tend to have the highest numbers in the area they are in. If you take Keith’s numbers a couple blog posts down you see there were 27,633 acupunks in 07.

    Doing the math, the average punk saw 638 patient visits during 2007 or…wait for it… 12.27* patient visits per week. 

    12.27 office visits a week. Multiply that by the average cost per visit of, I don’t know, $65, and you get gross income of $797/week or $41,439/year.  That’s gross. Not net. 

    So how much of that $41,439/year goes to taxes, ss, and expenses (rent, needles, etc.)? Half? More than half? (I actually don’t remember anymore.) If half that leaves a net of $20,719.50 to live off of (food, rent/mortgage, student loans, kids, phones, whatever). Acupuncture: It’s not a living. It’s a hobby!

    More crunching later.


    * This number, 12.27 visits per week, has been estimated, more or less, by several people over the years. For example, John Scott of Golden Flower estimated a similar number in an article for AT a copuple years ago. Somewhere back in the forums there’s a post that includes a couple citations of similar numbers. And like many averages that number can be misleading as some punks see a lot more and a lot of punks see a lot less.



    Mal: Well look at this. Seems we got here just in the nick of time! What does that make us?


    Zoë: Big damn heroes, sir.


    Mal: Ain’t we just.

  2. hey skip, you don’t even have to guess

    at the average/median out of pocket cost per acupuncture visit — according to NIH it is $48.25.

    which means, if all 27,633 acupuncturists in 2007 are working (which is doubtful), then everyone earns a gross of $30,000 income.


  3. marketing campaign?

    “Acupuncture: It’s not a living. It’s a hobby!”  New campaign slogan for the AAAOM?

    Also, “More crunching later.” Started working out, have you?  Let’s see that six-pack. Keg?

  4. Yep!

    I looked at that figure and figured that most Punks try to get some insurance money sent their way and that money wouldn’t be part of that out-of-pocket figue. Am I wrong to think that? Am I erring on the high side? If so then damn, the average Punk is f***ed.

  5. WoW!  I am so glad we have

    WoW!  I am so glad we have you guys to make sense of these numbers.  Not my strong suit.  These conclusions are somewhat shocking, even though I knew the field was in trouble.  It’s different when you actually see numbers.  I wouldn’t have much hope that this amazing medicine could continue to be practiced in this country if it weren’t for CA.

    Thank you to all those who paved the way for me and so many others in community acupuncture!!!!!  🙂



  6. yup, you’re right

    but i just don’t even have a guess how much $$ insurance reimbursement would be adding to the 48.  $65 is probably a reasonable guess.

  7. Thank you for making sense of the numbers!

    I was infuriated that the NCCAOM sent out a press release bragging about the increase in CAM visits in this survey. The numbers are ridiculous.

    We are sending out graduation gifts right now to all the new MSOM’s across the US (it’s graduation time at most of the 50+ schools) and I just can’t help but feel for them. Thank goodness for Community Acupuncture. I see it as the only hope for this industry.

    Diane Joswick,

  8. rise in acu numbers

     I wondered if CA could be a small or more significant part of the rise in Acupuncture visits.

    i don’t think so for 2007, just yet. not too many CA’s operating at that time. Going full strength, WCA prob is up to 25,000-30,000 vists per year, but many other CA’s are still one or two punk outfits (and in 2007).  so they are likely to top out at or around 3-5,000 vists/punk/year when going full steam (60 -100 per week).  For every 100 CA punks across the country seeing 50-100 vists per week yearly, the totals are 250,000 to 500,000 visits per year.  I believe we’re helping to lay some solid groundwork from the bottom up, but we’ve got a ways to go yet to make CA visits a substantial quantitative portion of the annual almost 18 million acu visits cited in the survey.


    “–but visits to acupuncturists went up by 3X their 1997 levels from 27.2 visits per 1000 adults to 79.2 visits per 1000 adults.  The study
    attributes this to “a progressively more regulated and professionalized
    CAM practitioner group” and ” large numbers of articles in the lay
    press about the benefits of acupuncture and increasing awareness in the
    general public” as well as “increased insurance coverage for these


    i think the 3x increase in visits is directly related more to the overall increase in LAcs, up 3x from 1997 to 2007.   I think the increase in visits would have been much, much higher proportionally to the number of LAc.s if all LAcs were seeing higher patient numbers in this time frame.  The growth has been linear.

  9. another question I have

    I couldn’t tell from the study, but we don’t know for sure that all of those 17.6 million treatments were performed by L.Acs, do we? They say “CAM practitioners”, but that could include MDs, DOs, and DCs who are providing acupuncture, because while they’re doing that, they are indeed practicing CAM. Not to mention that there is no way to track how many acupuncture treatments were actually provided by NADA ADS folks in substance abuse treatment programs. So the number of treatments doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the state of the “L.Ac profession” — except that even if all of those treatments were provided by L.Acs, things still don’t look good for us.

  10. I agree

    I was thinking the same thing.  I did a count of L.ac.s and chiros in my phone book once.  Under chiropractic, 400 listings.  Under acupuncture, 50, but 25 of those were actually chiropractors!  In my state (IL), most of the chiros do acupuncture as well, which they often fradulently bill as e-stim.  I would guess the majority of treatments around here were done by DC’s.

  11. Frank & Lisa took the words right off my keyboard.

    …and in NH there are a number of MDs who do medical acu who I presume would have been included in this survey – if they were NCCAOM members perhaps? Again, there seem to be lots of blanks to fill in…

    I have to agree with Diane in her thinking the NCCAOM seems to be misleading the public via this most recent press release, with a spin-job for the ages.

    Shame on them.

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