It is one of the oldest, safest, and most effective therapies for hard-to-treat conditions like pain and infertility. Many find that they prefer it to pharmaceutical medication. Why do people prefer this therapy over prescription drugs? For good reason: With this treatment, patients typically only experience positive side effects.
What on earth are we talking about? Why, acupuncture, of course!
Here is a routine example of what we mean by positive side effects: A woman might come in to the clinic for acupuncture facial rejuvenation. As her face looks more youthful and radiant, she also realizes that her headaches and hot flashes are gone, she is no longer anxious nor depressed, she is sleeping more deeply at night, and she has significantly more energy and clarity. This is possible because acupuncture is a whole-system medicine that treats the entire, inter-connected person.
What is Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM)?
Oriental medicine is an umbrella label for the medical theory and associated natural modalities that originated thousands of years ago in East Asia and have truly stood the test of time. Today, it is more politically correct to refer to Oriental medicine as East Asian medicine. The AOM profession is moving towards fully replacing the word “Oriental” with “East Asian” in all of its degrees and professional organizations.
East Asian medicine includes the majority of non-conventional treatment modalities often referred to as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). In addition to acupuncture, East Asian medicine theory drives the practice of acupressure, massage (Tuina, Shiatsu, and Thai), East Asian nutrition and dietetics, East Asian herbal formulism, Qi Gong, Tai Ji, meditation, yoga, reiki, and other energy healing techniques.
Acupuncture is a whole-person treatment system within East Asian medicine. There are many types and styles of acupuncture, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Element (Worsleyan) Acupuncture, Japanese Meridian Therapy, French and Korean style acupuncture, Classical acupuncture, and others. Each style is unique with its own interpretation and applications of the classical theories, diagnostic tools, and medical instruments of Oriental medicine.
Erika’s primary training was in Classical acupuncture. She also learned and incorporates protocols and elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture, Five-Element acupuncture, Kikko Matsumoto acupuncture, Dr. Tan’s acupuncture, Constitutional Facial Acupuncture, and more.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
When provided by a board-certified, Licensed Acupuncturist, acupuncture is a very safe treatment modality. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration changed the status of acupuncture needles from Class III to Class II medical devices, meaning that needles are regarded as safe and effective when used appropriately by licensed practitioners.1,2 In the United States and Europe, the risk of adverse event is 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000 needle insertions. Mild reactions such as drowsiness, presyncope (feeling light-headed), and syncope (fainting) are easily preventable by allowing post-treatment rest. Serious complications in the past 30 years of acupuncture literature are very rare.3
What is Electro-Acupuncture?
Electro-acupuncture is a modern application of acupuncture. In electro-acupuncture, very small electrodes are attached to the acupuncture needles, allowing a gentle current to pass between them. Electro-acupuncture can be extraordinarily effective for non-responsive conditions. It is often used to rehabilitate nerves and muscles, both smooth muscle and skeletal muscle, such as in gastroparesis or after stroke. It may even be useful for “resuscitating” organs that have been damaged due to lack of blood flow. Electro-acupuncture, when performed by a properly trained licensed acupuncturist, is just as safe as regular acupuncture.
How do I choose an Acupuncturist?
When it comes to choosing an acupuncture provider, it is important to consider the range and differences in education among those who practice acupuncture.
At Chiyu Center, we believe everyone contributes in an important way, regardless of their education. However, we also recognize that increased education and experience often translates to better clinical outcomes. We encourage patients who have tried acupuncture or dry-needling provided by a DO, MD, or PT and not experienced positive results to try a licensed acupuncturist. For more information about education requirements, see our Additional FAQs below.
Is Dry-Needling Acupuncture?
Yes… but the two things are not equivocal.
Dry-needling exists because of an argument in semantics. Those who practice dry-needling (and are not licensed acupuncturists) claim to only treat the physical, superficial part of the body, such as muscles and tendons. Their training consists solely of the surface effects of putting needles into the body. They are not trained in the energetic, psychological, or emotional aspects or effects of needling, nor are they trained on how needling affects internal organs.
Licensed acupuncturists, on the other hand, receive years of training on the full scope of needling, including effects on both the superficial and internal physical (biomedical) levels, energetic levels, and psycho-emotional levels. By definition, an acupuncturist performs dry-needling.
Dry-needling can be viewed as a subset of acupuncture — it is basically Sports Acupuncture. Dry-needling uses over 90% of the same points as acupuncture. Dry-needling providers even use needles labeled and sold as acupuncture needles. The difference is that the training required for “dry needling” is significantly less than the training received by acupuncturists. Dry-needling providers who do not have an acupuncture license have no idea what they are doing to emotions, psychological states, hormones or the internal organs associated with needle insertion locations.
In sum, a licensed acupuncturist does dry-needling as a matter of course. A dry-needling provider is performing “acupuncture in ignorance” even with the best intentions, because he or she is only trained in the superficial physical part of it. Click here to read the official position paper of the national board-certification body for acupuncture, the NCCAOM.
What do I need to Wear to an Acupuncture Treatment?
For private acupuncture appointments, you can wear whatever you are wearing that day — no special attire required. For group, semi-private, or Happy Hour Acupuncture appointments, it is recommended to wear a sleeveless, t-back, or camisole top and loose-fitting pants that can be rolled up to your thigh.
What does Acupuncture work best for?
Because acupuncture treats the whole-system, it can be effective for many, many conditions, including conditions that have been unresponsive to other treatment. Some conditions that respond favorably to acupuncture include:
How can I schedule?
Easy! Just contact us to find out our next availability and book your appointment!
Additional Acupuncture FAQs:
What is Classical Acupuncture?
Within the medical community, classical acupuncture is recognized as a different approach to patient care. The 2011 edition of Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment (CMDT) acknowledges that “in classic acupuncture, each patient is viewed as having a unique constellation of symptoms and signs. What this means is that ten patients presenting with migraine headaches might receive ten unique Chinese medical diagnoses and ten different treatments.”4 In other words, classical acupuncture treatments are not one-sized-fits all — they are highly individualized.
Today, few practitioners actually practice in this way. Regardless of country of origin or training, most modern acupuncture practitioners rely upon standardized protocols in treatment. The CMDT states that “western-style practitioners will conduct a conventional examination and include variable components of the Oriental medicine approach depending on the individual’s depth of training. Treatment typically utilizes a fixed combination of acupuncture points for a given medical diagnosis, such that a cohort of migraine sufferers will be treated in the same way.”5 Standardized protocols allow a large number of patients to be seen in a short amount of time, often effectively, and with minimal acupuncture theory and training. Individualized and classical-style treatments offer practitioners and patients the opportunity to use acupuncture to its fullest potential, but to practice in such a way requires much more education in classical theory and years of dedicated practice.
At the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), where Erika earned her Master’s of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM), the program’s focus was on Classical Acupuncture.
As with any medical treatment, it is important to understand how different styles may be best suited towards different conditions. Provided all styles and systems have at least some degree of efficacy, each different style of acupuncture has its place. Like any treatment and practitioner-based medicine, efficacy and patient preference is ultimately what determines the best treatment style for any given patient or condition.
What level of training do Acupuncturists receive?
The licensure, credentialing and regulation of acupuncture differs across the United States. In California and Florida, a licensed acupuncturist (LAc) is a legal primary care provider and holds all associated duties and responsibilities of a primary care physician.6,7 In 38 states including Colorado, a licensed acupuncturist does not require medical doctor supervision. At least 44 states have regulations governing the use of acupuncture, and the majority of remaining states have legislation pending.8
The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) regulates and accredits non-physician acupuncture training programs within the United States. Education and training for non-physician acupuncturists is a full-time, in-residence master’s degree program of at least 2500 hours, which typically requires four years to complete. Graduates of such programs apply for licensure as a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) or Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) according to state licensure laws. Graduates then sit for national board exams through The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), and earn certification as a Diplomate in Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine (Dipl. Ac. or Dipl. OM.). The federal government now recognizes the rigor of acupuncture training with the Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) degree. The DAOM is a 4-year doctoral program that has replaced the master’s degree in many institutions. For those who already hold a master’s degree, they can earn their DAOM after completing two years of additional training, or a total of six years of advanced degree, graduate-level training.9
As acupuncture gains acceptance and popularity, more medical, osteopathic, and chiropractic physicians seek to practice acupuncture in addition to their primary training. In response, there has been a trend towards acupuncture distance education programs and weekend workshop certifications for licensed doctors. Such educations provide a significantly reduced level of training with an emphasis on standardized protocols and little time cultivating understanding. Graduates of such programs must be diligent in their search for continuing education in acupuncture and Oriental medicine theory. Otherwise, they cannot be expected to have a full, flexible understanding of their treatments, nor the same level of competency of more thoroughly trained practitioners.
According to the American Medical Acupuncture Association, medical physicians may perform medical acupuncture within their scope of practice as governed by state legislation. Some states do not specify a requirement for acupuncture education for medical physicians. As of 2011, the American Board of Medical Acupuncture requires physicians to complete just 300 hours of acupuncture education, with 100 of those hours in clinical training, in order to receive acupuncture certification as Medical Acupuncturists.10
How do I choose an Acupuncturist?
When it comes to choosing an acupuncture provider, it may be important to consider the range and differences in education and specialty among those who practice acupuncture. At Chiyu Center, we believe everyone contributes in an important way, regardless of their education. However, we also recognize that increased education and experience often translates to better clinical outcomes. We encourage patients who have tried acupuncture or dry-needling provided by a DO, MD, or PT and not experienced positive results to try a licensed acupuncturist.
Note: Portions of this article were directly quoted from Erika’s thesis, Integrating Acupuncture at the Portland VA Hospital.
1 “Acupuncture Needles No Longer Investigational at FDA Consumer,” US Food and Drug Administration, 25 February 2011, <http://web.archive.org/web/ 20071219041730/ http://www.fda.gov/fdac/departs/596_upd.html>.
2 “Medical Devices: Premarket Approvals,” US Food and Drug Administration, 25 February 2011, <http://www.fda. gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedical Procedures/DeviceApprovalsandClearances/PMAApprovals/default.htm>.
3 McPhee, Stephen, et al., Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 50th ed. (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2011) 1612.
4 McPhee, Stephen, 1612.
5 McPhee, Stephen, 1613.
6 “California Acupuncture Board,” California Department of Consumer Affairs, CA.gov, 25 February 2011, <http:// www.acupuncture.ca.gov/>.
7 “Florida Board of Acupuncture,” Florida Department of Health, 25 February 2011, <http://doh.state.fl.us/mqa/ acupunct/index.html>.
8 “State Certification Requirements,” Acupuncture.com, 25 February 2011, <http://www.acupuncture.com/ statelaws/statelaw.htm>.
9 “ACAOM Doctoral (D.Ac./DAOM) Standards: Approved May 2004,” ACAOM, 25 February 2011, <http://www. acaom.org/Downloads/2004%2 0Doctoral%20Standards.pdf>.
10 “Requirements for Certification in Medical Acupuncture,” American Board of Medical Acupuncture, 25 February 2011, <http://www.dabma.org/requirements.asp>.