Community Acupuncture Makes Treatments Available to All

Local devotees of the Eastern practice are fleeing fancy spas for group treatments at neighborhood clinics.

Walk into the South Philadelphia Community Acupuncture clinic and you’ll find a roomful of comatose Philadelphians stretched out in armchairs—a stressed lawyer next to a migraine-suffering bicycle courier next to a retiree with back pain. Besides the needles sticking out of their limbs, the only thing these people have in common is their zip code.

“I’m here for the community,” says Lauren Buckley, acupuncturist and owner of the Passyunk Square clinic. “I love the idea of people walking by and being like, Hey, this is my neighborhood acupuncture place, just like a coffee shop.

Buckley’s approach is more business model than mission statement; her fee structure is similar to that promoted by the larger community-acupuncture movement, which started in Portland, Oregon, in 2002. Centered on the idea that acupuncture should be accessible to everyone, community clinics employ an honor-system sliding-scale payment program, with patients paying what they can based on income. Buckley’s treatments range between $15 and $40, a far cry from private ones that can cost up to $150.

Designed for volume, community clinics feature larger treatment rooms where several patients are treated at once (yes, clothes on). Buckley, who trained in China where large, open treatment rooms are de rigueur, says that after five years in private one-on-one practice, she averaged 20 patients a week; now she sees 150. Ellen Vincent, who founded West Philly’s Philadelphia Community Acupuncture, among the first such clinics in the region, says her facility provided 10,000 treatments last year. Now there are half a dozen clinics in the area, including ones in Center City and Mount Airy.

Joanne Ciminelli, 58, has been seeing Buckley regularly for over a year. After an accident and surgery left her with ongoing pain, she began acupuncture in a private setting, but sought a more affordable option post-retirement. Now she pays just $30 a visit—and she’s off pain meds and 95 percent pain-free.

“The goal is to get people better,” says Buckley. “Community acupuncture isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s allowed me to see many more people, problems, ages. I really feel like I’m making an impact, and I’m a better practitioner for it.”

Where to Find Community Acupuncture in Philly

Barefoot Doctor Community Acupuncture Clinic
618 East Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-870-2211.
Neighborhood: Fishtown
Sliding scale: $15 to $35

Community Acupuncture of Mount Airy
6782 Germantown Avenue, Mount Airy, and 821-A Bethlehem Pike, Erdenheim, 215-849-2262.
Neighborhoods: Mount Airy and Flourtown
Sliding scale: $30 to $40

Healing Space Acupuncture
688 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, 609-458-0340.
Neighborhoods: Collingswood
Sliding scale: $20 to $40

Open City Healing Arts
1315 Walnut Street, Suite 920, Philadelphia, 215-545-7040.
Neighborhood: Center City
Sliding scale: $25 to $45

Philadelphia Community Acupuncture
538 Carpenter Lane, Mount Airy, 215-844-2774 and 701 South 50th Street, Philadelphia, 215-729-2995.
Neighborhoods: Mount Airy and West Philly
Sliding scale: $15 to $35

Roxborough Community Acupuncture
445 Lyceum Avenue, Philadelphia, 267-417-0147.
Neighborhood: Roxborough
Sliding scale: $20 to $35

South Philadelphia Community Acupuncture
1532 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-279-3932.
Neighborhood: Passayunk Square
Sliding scale: $15 to $40