Acupuncture as a medical modality is still relatively new and misunderstood by most people. As a result many people think of acupuncture as a single type of medical treatment and are unaware that there are vast differences in training and certification.
Acupuncture is a medical technique, in that same way that surgery is a medical technique. There are systems of medicine behind the use of acupuncture that determine the proper use, just as modern biomedical medicine determines the use of surgery. There are many different styles of traditional medicine that are used by acupuncturists.
Physicians work in a variety of settings from clinics and hospitals to spas and research. Acupuncturists work in a variety of settings as well. It is important for the patient to be aware of the type of services provided by an acupuncturist. In general, training and certification takes 3-5 years before a practitioner is qualified by law to practice acupuncture. The following styles of practice are common with state and nationally board certified or licensed acupuncturists.
- Traditional clinic- Acupuncturist as a care provider, many times incorporating herbal medicine and other techniques to provide health care to the patient. Some of these practitioners have specialties. Some practitioners specialize in woman’s health, infertility, sports medicine, and cosmetic acupuncture, to name a few.
- Community acupuncture- Group setting acupuncture, provided at low or sliding fee rates. Usually focused simple treatments at high frequency.
- Detox acupuncture- Clinics that are specific to treating people with addiction issues.
- Integrative medical clinics- Many practitioners are part of a group of different medical providers in a clinic or hospital setting coordinating a variety of treatment options to find what is best for the patient.
Some acupuncturists are allowed to practice the techniques of acupuncture without having the training in the medical systems that traditionally determined how and why to use the techniques. These types of practitioners include;
- Medical acupuncturists- Usually physicians who are trained in acupuncture techniques without the training in the systems of medicine from which the techniques are derived. There is a certification for medical acupuncturists and requires 100-300 hours of training.
- Physical Therapy trigger point dry needling, TPDN- This is a style of acupuncture used by physical therapists. Certification of Physical therapists in TPDN is unclear at this time with most practitioners having as few as 25 hours of training.
- Other- There are various other practitioners using lasers, magnets and other devices to create stimulation to acupuncture points to treat patients. Usually these are spa type treatments or for specific conditions like smoking cessation or wrinkle reduction. Since there is no invasive techniques, the level of training and certification varies.
It is important that patients ask about the qualifications of their medical providers. State and federal certification and licensing requirements get very complicated and it is up to the patient to make sure that their practitioner is qualified and provides the care that is needed.