For an ancient Chinese medical practice, acupuncture was little known in the West until American journalist James Reston suffered acute appendicitis while visiting China with his wife in 1971. Reston was a reporter for the New York Times, and traveling as part of the advance team before President Nixon’s monumental trip to the country. Everyone knew that the President’s visit would end twenty-five years of separation between the two powers, but no one could be predict that Reston would have to be rushed into surgery at the Anti-Imperialist Hospital in Beijing.
The surgery was conventional, but Reston was in considerable pain the second night after the operation, so a doctor of acupuncture “inserted three long thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow,” Reston later wrote, “and below my knees and manipulated them in order to stimulate the intestine and relieve the pressure and distension of the stomach.” The article ran in the Times some days later, and the door was opened wide for acupuncture as a form of alternative medicine in United States.
Today, millions of Americans use acupuncture for purposes as varied as relieving headaches, migraines, and chronic pain to treating nausea, allergies, and depression. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that qi, or patterns of energy, flow through the body in harmony. Disease results from a disruption of this flow, so acupuncture uses very fine needles to target specific points close to the skin to restore the balance. The people who swear by it really swear by it.
Luckily, some of the best acupuncturists around are based in Brooklyn (and can also give you a bang for your buck, if you’re on a budget).
Brooklyn Acupuncture Project (BAP): If you’ve never had acupuncture done, BAP is a good place for a first experience: great ambiance, professional practitioners, and so soothing that you might actually fall asleep during treatment. Plus, if your health insurance company doesn’t recognize acupuncture as “real” medicine, BAP won’t punch your wallet. Their sliding scale pay structure for treatments keeps costs affordable. For example, if you’re earning $50,000 a year, you’ll pay in the low $40s for 45 minutes. The only downside is their late- and cancellation-fee ($20), which is enforced whether you’re a no-show or just running ten minutes behind for your appointment.
530 3rd Avenue, Gowanus brooklynacupunctureproject.com
Garden Acupuncture, PC: The practitioners are extremely knowledgeable and eager to nerd out about the treatment process, so Garden Acupuncture radiates genuine care in a cozy, clean environment. They can do acupuncture specifically for weight loss, allergies, fertility, and female pelvic pain, and are “in-network” with a bunch of insurance companies (so rejoice if you have Aetna, Blue Cross, Oxford, or some of the others on their list).
790A Union Street, Park Slope gardenacu.com
Brooklyn Open Acupuncture (BOA): Staffed by helpful practitioners and volunteers (they encourage clients to become regular volunteers in exchange for their treatments), BOA is part of the growing movement of affordable healthcare. When you walk in, they ask you how much you want to pay so your rate-per-treatment could be anywhere from $15 to $40, with a one-time-only fee of $10 for your first appointment. To keep costs low, BOA does acupuncture as it is “commonly practiced in East Asia: in a group setting with appointments staggered throughout the hour.” Practitioners conduct an initial intake with you in a private room before moving you to an open treatment area, and each practitioner treats four to six patients per hour. You get to decide how long you want your experience to be (from 20 to 90 minutes) and where you want to relieve pain (along the arms, legs, head, or back). The downside? A cancellation fee of $15 if you’re more than 20 minutes late or a no-show.
88 S Portland Avenue, Forte Greene brooklynopenacupuncture.com
WorkSong Community Acupuncture: Highly ranked among the local wellness centers in north Brooklyn, Worksong is something of a hidden gem. The environment is calm, they take last-minute appointments, and they use a sliding scale payment structure with an honesty policy about your income—so your treatment will be in an affordable range of $25-$50. Like BOA, they also practice acupuncture in a group setting, and have two small treatment rooms that hold up to three people each (so you won’t ever really feel overcrowded).
208 Driggs Avenue, Greenpoint worksongacupuncture.com
Neighborhood Natural Medicine (NNM): Based in an old, converted 18th century knitting factory, the offices are so inviting and peaceful that the waiting room is sort of what I’d want my apartment to look like if I could get more natural light and have lots of plants (that survive more than a week in my care). Dr. Joseph Giacona will listen to you compassionately and attentively, and can treat a whole list of medical conditions with painless acupuncture and a holistic approach. Although you’ll likely end up paying for the acupuncture out of pocket, the prices are reasonable but not sliding-scale. Yet, NNM might be worth every penny because the crowds of people who have been cured before you are not shy about calling Dr. Joseph an outright miracle worker.
30 Maujer Street, Apt 2A, East Williamsburg neighborhoodnaturalmedicine.com
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