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.