Health Care Careers - Acupuncturist

Through the use of a Chinese medicine called acupuncture, acupuncturists diagnose, treat, and help prevent illness or disease. They also offer relief for chronic pain, drug addiction, nausea, and emotional problems. Some people who quit drinking or smoking seek acupuncture for help in stemming the cravings. More than two thousand years old, acupuncture involves the stimulation of certain points on the body. The stimulation is usually achieved by inserting fine needles into the skin. Other ways of stimulating acupuncture points include applying heat, electrical stimulation (when electricity is used to massage deep tissue or to relieve swelling), pressure, which is called acupressure, friction, or suction.

Health Care Careers: Words to Know

To recognize an educational institution for having the standards that allows graduates to practice in a certain field.
A person who defends the cause of another.
The system of medical practice making use of all measures that have proved to be effective in the treatment of disease.
Associate's degree:
Degree granted from two-year college institutions.
Bachelor's degree:
A four-year college degree.
Bedside manner:
A physician's ability to put a patient at ease and communicate effectively.
Existing at birth.
Continuing education:
Formal schooling above and beyond any degree that is often required of medical professionals in order to keep practicing in their specific field.
Used to recognize a disease or an illness.
An in-depth research paper.
Advanced study and research that usually follows a medical residency.
Treating both the body and the mind.
Supervised practical experience.
Authorization to practice a certain occupation
Master's degree:
A college degree that ranks above a four-year bachelor's degree.
Involving the hands.
Relating to the muscles and bones.
A system of medical practice based on the theory that disease is due chiefly to mechanical misalignment of bones or body parts.
The energy sent out when changes occur in the atoms of an object.
To complete the standards of education issued by a state government to practice a certain profession.
Advanced training in a medical specialty that includes or follows a physician's internship.
To work in a special branch of a certain profession.
The use of high-frequency sound waves that forms an image to detect a problem in the body.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, every person has vital energy, called Qi (also referred to as chi; both are pronounced "chee"), flowing through his or her body. This invisible energy, which travels along twelve major pathways called meridians, can become imbalanced, creating areas of deficient (less) and excess (more) Qi. It is thought that imbalanced Qi can cause illness. Acupuncture works to restore the balance of Qi by stimulating certain points on the body that affect the flow of Qi. As a result, Qi is sent to areas of deficiency and removed from areas of excess, which allows the body to function at its best.

During a session, an acupuncturist will first talk with patients about any physical or emotional problems they may be experiencing and will also observe the patients' movements, examine their bodies, and check pulse rates at different points on the wrists. This helps the acupuncturist to make a diagnosis. The acupuncturist will then stimulate certain points on the body, usually with the needles. Some acupuncturists will stay at the patient's side during the whole session in almost continuous contact with the patient. Others will insert the needles and leave the room, allowing the patient to rest.

An acupuncturist, who typically works in a health spa or private practice, must be familiar with all of the acupuncture points (more than 365) on the body and which parts of the body each affects. For example, stimulating a point on the leg may help with headaches or stomachaches. When providing treatment, the acupuncturist will only stimulate the points he or she believes will benefit that specific patient.

Training to Be An Acupuncturist

To become an acupuncturist, a person usually attends a three-year program in acupuncture and Asian medicine, which includes practical (handson) experience in a clinical setting. There are both accredited and non-accredited schools (accredited schools must adhere to certain standards that qualify its students for professional practice). Shorter programs do exist that only require 50 to 200 hours of study in acupuncture. These programs, which are not accredited, are usually taken by medical professionals who want to incorporate acupuncture into their practices.

In more than half of U.S. states, an acupuncturist must be licensed to practice. To become licensed, certain requirements, which can vary among states, must be met by a candidate.

These requirements may include providing proof of the satisfactory completion of a formal study program, having practical experience, and passing a licensing examination given by the state.

If a state does not require licensing, an acupuncturist usually takes the certification examination offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). A person who completes one of the shorter programs in acupuncture cannot qualify for taking the NCCAOM examination or state licensing examinations.

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