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Bruised Bear Gives Acupuncture A Boost

January 24, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ Bruised Bear quarterback Jim McMahon’s choice of acupuncture to ease his pain has renewed interest in the ancient Chinese practice, but Western medicine still views the needle treatment with skepticism.

Phones ″are ringing off the hook″ at the Midwest School for the Study of Oriental Medicine in Chicago, said spokeswoman Lila Berry.

The publicity is ″relieving some of people’s misconceptions about acupuncture, that it’s just voodoo or that you have to believe in it for it to work,″ said Joe Mitchell, an acupuncturist at the North Side school, which trains acupuncturists and offers treatment.

McMahon says he’s doing ″200 percent″ better since Chicago Bears management changed their minds and let a Japanese acupuncturist treat his bruised backside in New Orleans, where the Bears prepared to battle the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

″The acupuncturists in Illinois are being besieged by inquiries,″ Steven Finando, a member of the American Association of Acupuncturists and Oriental Medicine in Manhasset, N.Y., said in a telephone interview Friday.

″We’ve gotten some calls,″ said Finando, who also heads the examining board of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists.

″I think it’s wonderful when people recognize that acupuncture is being used by a lot of people,″ he said of the McMahon-generated publicity.

″Acupuncture is the use of Chinese medical principles to manipulate the flow of energy in the system to affect a variety of physiological activities and functions using stimulation of specific body points by needles ... or use of heated herbs,″ Finando said.

In China, acupuncture is used to relieve a variety of ailments, and has been used to control pain during surgery. Patients are conscious as needles are inserted into the skin, and most describe the procedure as painless.

″We see it as being a complement″ to traditional medicine, Finando said.

He said someone with high blood pressure might first go to a medical doctor for medication. ″Then they can work with an acupuncturist to bring the pressure down more and wean them from the medicine,″ Finando said.

Practioners of Western medicine, however, don’t view acupuncture as an accepted or proven procedure.

The American Medical Association believes ″acupuncture in the United States is an experimental medical procedure,″ said spokeswoman Martha Boyce.

The Illinois State Medical Society has lobbied against a bill that would allow acupuncturists in the state to be licensed as independent practitioners, and considers acupuncture ″an unexplained procedure″ said society trustee Dr. Robert Hamilton.

Like the AMA, the society believes acupuncture should be done only by or under the supervision of a licensed physician, Hamilton said.

Trained acupuncturists generally have three years of post-graduate instruction in the procedure, including a year of interning, Finando said. To be certified by the national commission, they must pass a comprehensive exam.

He said about 20 states allow acupuncturists to be licensed as independent practitioners.

In those that don’t, such as Illinois, acupuncturists are subject to prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. And those who seek treatment have no guarantee that an acupuncturist is fully trained, said state Rep. Alan Greiman, sponsor of the Illinois bill.

Greiman, who underwent acupuncture for a sprained ankle, says McMahon’s treatment ″gives a lot of credibility to the importance of acupuncture″ and could help his legislation.

″It was an idea whose time had almost come, before,″ Greiman said. ″Now, thanks to (McMahon) it’s here.″

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