Alternative Medicine Guide

How Acupuncture Went from 'Alternative' to Accepted

Not that long ago, it was illegal for acupuncturists to practice in Texas without a medical degree or supervision. Two Houston acupuncturists helped change that.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis May 25, 2017 Published in the June 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Nancy and Tiong Ling of Peking Acupuncture

The traditional Chinese technique of acupuncture was around long before it became popular for lifestyle bloggers to post photos of themselves looking like Pinhead from Hellraiser—3,000 years, give or take.

Not that long ago, though, it was illegal for acupuncturists to practice in Texas without a medical degree or supervision. Tiong and Nancy Ling of Peking Acupuncture, near Bellaire and 610, helped change that.

Both Chinese PhDs, they got interested in acupuncture—the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points for a therapeutic effect—in the late 1970s, when Tiong was suffering from acid reflux.

“He didn’t believe in traditional Chinese medicine. But after one treatment, he was cured,” Nancy says today. “He was hooked. We both began reading and researching, and eventually traveled to Hong Kong to study at the Chinese Acupuncture Institute.”

It was in 1982 that they moved to Houston, where they expected the city’s large Chinese population to form their client base; ironically, the great majority of their patients over the years have been of non-Asian descent. In ’85, they co-wrote a book, Everything You Want to Know About Acupuncture.

But during that era, “We had to be sponsored by a doctor to perform treatments. There was so much red tape,” says Nancy. “If a doctor didn’t sign off on a procedure, you could go to jail.”

The Lings and six other acupuncturists sued the Texas Medical Board in the early ’90s, helping to pave the way for the creation of the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners, in 1993. With their accreditation, they could finally practice independently in Texas.

Today, there are clinics all over town, and at theirs, the Lings use acupuncture to help Houstonians with pain management, nicotine addiction, weight loss, and a host of other ailments. In their waiting room, a map is dotted with hundreds, if not thousands, of pins marking more than 40 countries, all places from which their clients have traveled to visit the Lings for treatment.

While scientists are still just beginning to understand acupuncture, research shows it’s an effective treatment for non-inflammatory musculoskeletal pain.

Of course, it does involve needles being inserted into your body’s pressure points. And during our own recent, first experience—despite what some say—the needles entering our body did feel like just that. Nevertheless, our back pain was alleviated, and we too were hooked.

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