An acupuncturist is a health professional who applies theories of
ancient Chinese medicine in the form of acupuncture. Acupuncture is a procedure
in which thin needles are inserted into specific parts of the body to relieve
pain and treat illness.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe acupuncture
unblocks and balances the flow of energy (chi or qi), which flows through the
body along pathways called meridians. Western medicine practitioners theorize
that acupuncture reduces pain through biological mechanisms, perhaps involving
stimulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, and changes in
neurotransmitters, hormones, or immune function.
Acupuncturists may have many different credentials, including
L.Ac., Lic.Ac., C.A., Dipl.Ac., M.Ac., or AAMA. Some states require
acupuncturists to be licensed by the board of medical examiners. Many require
educational background in acupuncture science and Western science along with
extensive clinical training. In some states, acupuncturists must also pass an
exam given by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and
Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) before they are granted licensure. NCCAOM
certification means that a person has met national standards for safe and
competent practice in his or her field. Acupuncturists may also complete a
clean needle technique (CNT) course administered by the Council of Colleges of
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. When choosing an acupuncturist, it is
important to check credentials, especially in states with less rigorous
A physician acupuncturist is a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, or
podiatry who has fulfilled the physician requirements for licensure to practice
acupuncture that have been set by the state's medical board. These
doctors study acupuncture and incorporate it into their medical practice.
August 17, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
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