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What is Acupuncture?
The genesis of the word acupuncture comes from two Latin words: acus (needle) and punctura (penetration) or the use of needles to penetrate. Acupuncture is a broad term in the field of alternative medicine used to represent a number of techniques and theories to create harmony, balance, and health through stimulation or pain blocking accomplished through the use of needles. The needles used by a licensed, certified acupuncturist can be stimulated manually or via electric stimulation depending on the method and theory utilized.
What is Acupuncture Good For?
The benefits of acupuncture and acupressure have many demonstrable benefits. In fact, there are a number of independent studies performed by entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and NCCIH illustrating scientific confirmation of known health improvements.
According to Carolyn Chen, L.A.c there are some 365 points on the human body. All of which are connected through channels of energy, or Qi, flowing through common energy points. To achieve maximum health, energy needs to flow smoothly. Injury, blockage, or illness can result in an imbalance. Research-based acupuncture benefits that help restore health and balance include the following:
- Lower Back Pain
- Knee Pain
- Weight Loss
- Anxiety & Depression
- Neck Pain
- Fertility & Pregnancy
- Blood Pressure Alignment
- Peptic Ulcer
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Strains and Sprains
Popular Types of Acupuncture
Although the theory and practice of acupuncture began in China some two-thousand years ago, it is commonly practices around the world today. Variations on traditional Chinese acupuncture have emerged over the years yet retain the basic principles of TCM. No style has been scientifically proven to be more effective than the other but may be preferred over another by patients and practitioners.
Acupuncture may be supplemented or substituted with other types of manipulation such as: acupuncture, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, t’ai chi, tui na, qigong, Swedish Massage, trigger point therapy, sports massage, deep tissue massage, neuromuscular therapy, Shiatsu, myofascial release, and/or reflexology techniques.
A list of the most commonly practiced types of acupuncture are listed below to help you understand the variants in acupuncture more concisely during the research phase of your vocational search.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCM): Traditional Chinese Medicine known as TCM is the most popular form of acupuncture in the United States. The primary focus of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is to establish balance including body, mind, physical, emotional, and spiritual for an optimal state of being.
Korean Acupuncture: Korean acupuncture has many overlapping theories with the Japanese style of acupuncture with thin needles however many needles are used in each treatment. Korean Hand Acupuncture is a subset utilizing the hand only for acupuncture treatment.
Electro Acupuncture: Electro acupuncture is a style of acupuncture involving a small electrical current being placed between two or more needles to help restore overall well-being and health.
Japanese Style Acupuncture & Classic Acupuncture: The theory and practice of Japanese Acupuncture uses thin needles in moderation when compared to Traditional Chinese Medicine, resulting in less stimulation. Japanese Style Acupuncture or Classic Acupuncture leverages the foundational principles of the Five Element Theory.
French Energetic Acupuncture & French Meridian Acupuncture: The French Energetic or French Meridian Acupuncture is rooted in TCM and widely used by acupuncturists around the globe. This style of acupuncture focused on the yin and yang of the focal meridians (stomach, large intestine, lung, heart, spleen, bladder, small intestine, kidney, triple warmer, gall bladder, pericardium, conception vessel, governing vessel, and liver).
Auricular Acupuncture: Auricular Acupuncture is a subset of acupuncture that utilizes specific points in the ear to create harmony. This discipline is often associated with pain management and addiction relief for patients of all types.
Veterinary Acupuncture: Another subset of acupuncture is veterinary acupuncture whereby licensed and certified veterinarians utilize needles to create harmony and improve health in animals.
Five-Element Acupuncture: The Five-Element Acupuncture is rooted in Chinese history and practices whereby water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are used to represent elements in the body to create harmony and balance.
Medical Acupuncture: The term medical acupuncture is used when acupuncturists in the West use it to manage pain in patients. Specific points in the body are used to mitigate pain and may or may not be accompanied with electric stimulation.
Educational Requirements in Acupuncture
A degree in acupuncture is typically pursued at the graduate level and takes between 3-4 years to complete. The education provided by such a program involves the study of traditional Chinese techniques, particularly the use of medicinal needles on various pressure points to ease pain and cure disease.
Students lacking a bachelor degree in science may be required by a given program to take certain courses prior to admission into their program, particularly anatomy and physiology courses due to the need of familiarity with the human body to perform acupuncture techniques.
A curriculum in acupuncture may include:
- Point Location
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Botanical Medicine
- Clinical Diagnosis
- Lab Diagnosis
- Public Health
Programs in acupuncture prepare students for a career as an acupuncturist, which involves diagnosis and treatment for a variety of ailments. Acupuncture primarily deals with the use of needles in pressure points near or on organs in order to relax the body and promote wellness.
Additional techniques, such as acupressure massage, may be applied to facilitate treatment. The use of Chinese herbs is also taught to assist in the process, either through aromatherapy or ingestion. Ailments that may be treated by acupuncture are varied, from headaches and soreness to colitis and gastritis. The use of acupuncture for treatment is approved by the World Health Organization, falling under the category of traditional medicine.
How Do I Become an Acupuncturist?
You will be required to pass key steps to migrate your career towards becoming an acupuncturist. We have outlined each step in a simplified fashion to help you digest these requisite steps. Understand that variations will exist for your state making research a vital process for your future.
Step 1 – Research Acupuncture Schools
To start your journey, you will need to initially perform research into accredited schools offering acupuncture programs. Acupuncture degrees will need to fit your academic and professional objectives. To accurately research schools, you can quickly leverage the information found here and utilize our proprietary matching portal.
Step 2 – Apply to Acupuncture Colleges
Next, you will need to winnow down your list of schools to a short, manageable list of top programs in acupuncture. Invest time early in the process to understand the curricular approach, time involved in each program, and financial aid packages.
Additionally, you will need to determine if a on-site or online Certificate in Acupuncture, Bachelor’s Degree in Acupuncture, Master’s Degree in Acupuncture, or Doctorate in Acupuncture is best for you. During the application process, highlight all related work experience and extracurricular activities that help define who you are in an effort to stand out from the other applicants as programs can be hypercompetitive.
Step 3 – Attend School
After gaining admissions to the school of your choice, you will attend an accredited college or university to begin your studies as an acupuncturist. The length of time you are in school will depend on the program selected, degree type, number of credits taken at a given time, state requirements, and school curriculum. For example, a master’s degree in acupuncture will typically last 3 years while the Oriental medicine trade is often a 4-year program.
Step 4 – Graduate, Exams, Certification, & Work
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with your acupuncture degree or certificate, you will likely be required by your state of residence to obtain licensure to work as an acupuncturist. Each state will stipulate the number of hours required, examinations, and licenses required.
The NCCAOM provides guidance on the certification process and state-specific requirements here. Depending on your state and employer requirements, you should consider taking continuing online education classes in acupuncture to keep up to speed and continue learning. You will also need to maintain your NCCAOM certification every four years.
Employment Opportunities for Acupuncturists
In the United States, acupuncture is normally performed through private clinics or holistic medical centers providing alternative medicine therapies. Individuals will typically work under an experienced professional in order to obtain practical experience prior to pursuing a career of their own. Traditional medicine as a whole is growing in popularity in the United States, as a result acupuncture has become more accepted as a form of treatment resulting in growth and the spread of locations offering such services throughout the country.
Acupuncture Jobs & Salary
With the population aging in the United States, the demand for medical treatments, particularly alternative treatments, is expected to grow at a rate of 13% over the next decade adding some 17,700 jobs during that time.
The average salary for an acupuncturist is approximately $74,530, with practitioners in larger cities expecting to earn more due to population. Experienced acupuncturists may also earn more based on notoriety and years of practice. Individuals interested in acupuncture may also be interested in homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Asian medicine, and herbology.
Resources for Acupuncturists
- Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)
- National Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NAAOM)
- Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR)
- American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA)
- Council of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (CAOMA)
- American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)