Acupuncture spread across Italy in 1960s and 1970s following other Western countries with a short delay, though the first descriptions of acupuncture reached Italy after Matteo Ricci (1552-1610)’s travels in China.
In 1968, the first medical and scientific acupuncture society was founded named as SIA (Italian Acupuncture Society); it followed a traditional approach adopting the principles of the Chinese medical philosophy. In 1973, the SIRAA (Italian Society of Reflexotherapy, Acupuncture, and Auriculotherapy) was founded which recognised acupuncture to its neurophysiological mechanisms.
In 70s acupuncture was first taught in Italian schools of acupuncture by French teachers. At that time, patients were few, and acupuncture practitioners received insufficient and superficial training.
The real rise in interest of acupuncture occurred in 80s due to the scientific relationships established first with foreign acupuncture schools, above all from the Anglo-Saxon countries and then in later 90 s, with the universities of traditional Chinese medicine in China. Consequently, both teaching activities and clinical practice improved.
In 1987, the founding of the FISA (Italian Federation of Acupuncture Societies) was a milestone for the growth of acupuncture in Italy: The past—represented by the two previous scientific societies, that is, SIA and SIRAA—was superseded by both a political and scientific perspective.
Today, FISA is the leading self-regulatory body for the practice of acupuncture in Italy and represents most Italian MD acupuncturists. It is the only Italian scientific society of acupuncture to be accredited by the Ministry of Health. Its members include 19 medical associations and 13 schools of acupuncture. Since its foundation, 4,187 MDs have been trained and certified by FISA until December 31, 2018. In addition, FISA coordinates national resources, offers assistance, and disseminates information related to acupuncture and TCM to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures.
FISA standards are recognized by regional, national, and international associations, institutions, and organizations. FISA has fostered alliances with regional governments and assisted the Ministry of Health in many assignments.
In 1982, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation asserted that medical doctors could exclusively practice acupuncture. Since then, only people with a degree in medicine and surgery who passed the state exam and were properly certified as a medical doctor could practice acupuncture.
In 2011, FISA President Carlo Maria Giovanardi was appointed Expert of the Superior Health Council for Non-Conventional Medicine. This appointment proved the growing interest of prestigious institutions, such as the Superior Health Council, in acupuncture. Consequently, FISA played a key role in establishing requirements and coordinating teaching activities for education in acupuncture at the State–Regions Conference held on February 7, 2013.
Over the last few years, acupuncture has increasingly spread in Italy. Nowadays, it is administered not only in private clinics, but also in public structures belonging to the National Healthcare Service. When acupuncture was first introduced in Italy, it was mainly used to treat the symptoms of pain syndromes. Therefore, it is most used in public pain relief centers. Over time, its range of application has remarkably increased; it now covers a wide variety of fields, including the treatment of chemotherapy-induced side effects in cancer patients, among others.
Giovanardi CM et al Integr Med Res. 2020 Mar;9(1):1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.imr.2019.12.001. Epub 2019 Dec 17.