The use of acupuncture dates back over 2,500 years and has been used consistently throughout the centuries. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a safe and effective method of medical treatment.
While many may think of acupuncture as a treatment for pain, its use is far more vast when practiced by trained, licensed acupuncturists. Today's modern practitioners undergo rigorous training earning both master of science degrees and/or doctorates before beginning private practice.
What Type Of Education Do Acupuncturists Receive Before Practicing?
Educational institutions training acupuncturists develop curriculum which will enable students to eventually function as independent health care providers. Students of acupuncture participate in a minimum of 2000 hours of course work and see over 500 patients before completing their program of study. The most comprehensive programs include an intensive study of Chinese medical theory, the study and research of western biomedical sciences and the psycho-social aspects of medical theory and practice. This curriculum is developed to reflect the ever-changing health care needs of modern society. Clinical internships and externships reflect the evolution of integrative medicine and offer interface between eastern and western medical models.
Currently each state outlines the rules and regulations acupuncture practitioners must observe before offering medical treatment to the community. Most states require that practitioners receive formal licensing. Licensing is generally dependent upon length of education and clinical experience. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine was established to assess and promote recognized standards of competence and safety in acupuncture for the protection and benefit of the public. Their mission is to improve the quality of its examinations and advance the development of certification research and fulfill its responsibility of protecting the public from unsafe practice. While not all states require certification, almost all require the passing of the national exam to obtain state licensing to practice.
Why Patients Benefit From Choosing Rigorously Trained Acupuncturists
It's important when choosing an acupuncturist to consider their training. Acupuncturists who study, understand and practice based on Chinese medical theory are the most competent and well-qualified practitioners to dispense acupuncture. Selecting an acupuncturist who has taken and passed the national certification test showing that he or she excels in this expert area is the ideal choice for patients. Why visit a practitioner that hasn't been rigorously trained?
MDs or other practitioners that practice "needling" (sometimes referred to as dry needling) may have an extensive medical background, yet lack the foundation that acupuncture theory is based upon. Because this is the case, most practitioners that have only taken short, weekend certification classes are essentially only treating you for your symptoms. When you visit a licensed acupuncturist who has been extensively trained in both western medicine and the specific theories behind acupuncture, your treatment will go far beyond your symptoms of pain. Acupuncturists may treat health concerns related to how you're feeling in the moment to relieve symptoms, but treatment is always guided at addressing the entire you. Trained acupuncturists seek to facilitate short and long term changes in health by offering personalized treatment perspectives that differ from person to person. MDs and other practitioners who have had very little training only understand needling on an elementary level generally only treat you for the symptoms you are experiencing in the moment. These practitioners are providing standardized, limited treatments, where an extensively trained acupuncturist will understand how to tailor your treatment directly toward individual health concerns.
Another important consideration are medical accidents related to acupuncture. Of the many medical treatments available to us today, acupuncture has one of the lowest rates of medical accidents across the world. It's interesting to note that medical accidents related to acupuncture are almost always a result of a non-qualified practitioner that has not studied acupuncture theory or completed the extensive number of hours administering practice sessions with patients to perfect techniques. Acupuncturists are highly trained to understand the nuances of anatomy and physiology and take great care to practice precautionary steps with each treatment. Part of acupuncture training is devoted to understanding how to avoid making potential medical accidents- a topic that is not extensively covered in weekend courses.
If this is your first time researching acupuncture, be sure to choose practitioners who are the most well-qualified to offer the services they render. While it varies depending on your state, stay on the safe side by going with a licensed acupuncturist every time.