Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular, meaning that it is now easier than ever to find an acupuncturist near you. But how can you be sure that your local provider has the necessary qualifications and skills?
In this article, we take a look at the various regulations surrounding acupuncture and how to ensure that you choose an acupuncturist who can provide you with treatment that is both effective and safe.
How many acupuncturists are there in the U.S.?
More and more people are now training in acupuncture and oriental medicine, meaning that it is becoming easier to find an acupuncturist no matter where you live. Of course, there are always going to be more acupuncturists in densely populated areas like New York. In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of American acupuncturists practice in either New York, California, or Florida.
The exact number of acupuncturists in the U.S. is unclear since colleges are turning out more acupuncture graduates all the time. There are currently over 60 master’s and 10 doctoral degree programs to choose from across the country!
A 2015 survey found that there were 34,481 acupuncturists practicing in the U.S. at that time. However, this figure is likely to grow rapidly as the years go by. The advantage of this growth is that it is now easier than ever to find an acupuncturist near you. However, it also means that you should be more wary of under-qualified practitioners who do not meet local regulations.
Is acupuncture regulated by the Federal Government?
Acupuncture is not regulated by the Federal Government, and acupuncture laws can vary from state to state. Individual state laws regulate factors such as:
- Scope of practice
- Disciplinary procedures
- Third-party reimbursement
- Access to treatment
Although the laws surrounding acupuncture are likely to be similar for each state, there may also be some minor differences. For example, in New York, a professional board for acupuncture has existed since 1991. It is made up of acupuncturists, physicians, and members of the public. As well as requiring acupuncturists to pass a state-approved licensing examination, it enforces other rules such as displaying certificates and recommending that patients notify their physician of their acupuncture treatment.
Although acupuncture is not federally regulated, there is a national organization known as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The NCCAOM aims to promote the practice of acupuncture and oriental medicine by “establishing and promoting national evidence-based standards of competence and credentialing.”
Finding an acupuncturist registered with the NCCAOM is a good way to ensure that a certain standard has been met with regard to training and qualifications.
How long does it take to train as an acupuncturist?
The duration of an acupuncturist’s training will depend on their professional background as well as in which state they intend to practice. For example, some states allow physicians to use acupuncture within the scope of their medical practice, while others require physicians to undergo additional training.
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 200 hours additional training for physicians who wish to practice acupuncture. Some states such as Hawaii, New Mexico, and Montana require physicians to undergo the same level of training as non-physicians before using acupuncture in their clinics.
Non-physician acupuncturists undergo far more in-depth acupuncture training that their medical counterparts. First, 60 hours of pre-professional education must be completed before moving onto the 450-hour professional program. This program includes training in oriental medicine theory and biomedicine, alongside supervised clinical practice.
Once an acupuncture graduate finishes their training, they must pass a licensing exam provided by the NCCAOM or other professional body.
Who regulates the needles used in acupuncture?
The needles used in acupuncture are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By definition, acupuncture needles are solid and made from stainless steel. By law, they must be labelled ‘for single use only.’
Acupuncture needles have to meet certain standards regarding sterility and biocompatibility (meaning that they are unlikely to trigger an allergic response). By only using each acupuncture needle once, the risk of infection is kept extremely low.
In addition to their standard training, acupuncturists in the U.S. are required to undertake additional training in the ‘clean needle technique’ provided by the National Needle Safety Program. New graduates must achieve this certificate in order to become a licensed acupuncturist. This ensures that qualified acupuncturists provide their treatments with a high degree of responsibility and safety.
How do I find an acupuncturist near me?
There are several ways to find a qualified acupuncturist near you. One of the best ways to find a good provider is by word of mouth. Ask for recommendations from any friends or family who have tried acupuncture and were happy with their experience. You could also ask your physician to recommend an acupuncturist that they have worked with in the past.
You can also use online directories and services like Google Maps to find an acupuncturist near you. Just be sure to look for a provider who is registered with a body such as the NCCAOM or similar. Online reviews can also be a great way to help you to choose an acupuncturist based on others’ previous experiences.
Once you find an acupuncturist in your local area, don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you may have before starting your treatment. It is important to find a provider with whom you feel comfortable as well as one that you trust. Once you have done this, simply book in your first appointment, lie back, relax and enjoy!