Acupuncture bill goes for second reading in House

By Dan Jacobsen

A bill that will license and regulate independent, non-physician acupuncture practice in Illinois is on its second reading in the state House of Representatives.

Mary Kay Ryan, an acupuncturist who treats AIDS patients in the Chicagoland area, said the bill would require that acupuncture be performed with disposable needles.

It would also require that Illinois follow and adhere to the national certification process and all acupuncturists complete a course and examination on clean and sterile techniques based on the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control.

Ryan said the problem in Illinois is that the only requirement to practice acupuncture is it be administered by a physician. However, they don’t have to have any background or training in the treatment, she said.

In the United States, 30 states require a license, said Ryan. If someone from one of those states came to Illinois they would not be allowed to practice acupuncture unless they were a physician. “There are a lot of very qualified acupuncturists in this state who are tired of not being allowed to treat in Illinois. Slowly they are starting to leave and look for work in other states,” Ryan said.

Some of the many uses of the treatment involve menstrual problems, infertility, chronic intractable pain, severe headaches and arthritic problems, Ryan said.

“Acupuncture is one aspect of a Chinese healing process. It is at least 2000 years old,” Ryan said. The process has been known in the United States for 150 years and has been gaining in popularity and recognition, she said.

One of the major uses of the treatment has been in alcohol and drug detoxification. “(Acupuncture) makes the actual physical withdrawal a lot less difficult. It keeps addicts off the drugs a lot better, and the rate of staying clean longer is better than other options,” Ryan said.

Another important use for acupuncture is in treatment for AIDS patients. “It is good for many of the chronic debilitating symptoms found in AIDS patients. For example night sweating, fatigue and chronic, recurrent diarrhea,” Ryan said.

Ryan said in her clinic she gives 15,000 treatments per year specifically to AIDS patients. “In Chicago there are only three clinics that see 700 AIDS patients, performing 30,000 treatments per year.”

There is only one physician practicing acupuncture in DeKalb County.

Ryan said the supporters of the bill are hoping for a favorable vote in the House as the bill will come up at the end of this month.