- NCCAOM is a national organization that validates entry-level competency in the practice of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) through professional certification. NCCAOM certification or a passing score on the NCCAOM certification examination are documentation of competency for licensure as an acupuncturist by 44 states plus the District of Columbia which represents 98% of the states that regulate acupuncture.
- From the NCCAOM website: http://www.nccaom.org/about/about-us-home/
- For further information about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine: http://www.nccaom.org/consumers/
- State licensing requirements: http://www.nccaom.org/regulatory-affairs/state-licensure-map/
- In Washington State, acupuncturists are known as East Asian Medicine Practitioners (EAMP) as the practice of acupuncture and oriental medicine is not restricted to just the use of needles. East Asian Medicine includes the use of dietary therapy, moxibustion, qi gong, Asian bodywork therapy (commonly known as Tui Na and acupressure), acupuncture needling, and cupping. East Asian Medicine Practicioner License Requirements
If you’ve never seen an acupuncturist, here’s some insider information to help you feel more comfortable.
At your first visit, your practitioner will get to know you and your health concerns by asking detailed questions about your health history, feeling your pulses on each wrist and they will take a look at your tongue (feeling pulses and looking at the tongue are traditional methods of diagnoses and allow the doctor to learn of any imbalances in your body). The practitioner will determine your individualized treatment plan and explain what you can expect from your acupuncture sessions.
The practitioner will let you know the best position and what areas they will need to access during the treatment. Most of the time you will be fully clothed and your sleeves or pants will need to be rolled up for access to the arms or legs. If you are receiving a back treatment, you will need to take off your shirt and for women, remove your bra so we may access the acupuncture points. You will be laying face down and likely have a sheet covering your legs and any area that is not being needled.
The practitioner will then leave the room to allow you to get comfortable on the treatment table either laying face-down, on your back, or side-lying as determined by your comfort, your condition, and access to certain acupuncture points. Once they return, they will swab the points to be needled with a cotton ball and some alcohol before needling.
Please let your practitioner know if something feels uncomfortable, and they will adjust the needling to your comfort. Needle retention can be anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes depending on the condition and treatment. During this time, the practitioner will leave the room and let “the needles cook,” which means allowing you to relax to make the treatment more effective. Don’t be surprised if you fall asleep cradled by the effects of the needles, soft music, and dimmed lights. Other times, the practitioner may answer your questions or perhaps do some bodywork away from any area that may have needles in place.
At the end of the treatment, the needles will be removed and we may suggest some herbal remedies, diet changes, or lifestyle change to make the treatments more effective.
Most individuals continue to feel relaxed and sometimes sleepy after the treatment. It is recommended that you give yourself time to rest and enjoy this state. We also ask patients to take note of how they feel after last treatment and share this information with their practitioner during the next visit.
If you have never had acupuncture before, here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable before your first visit.
- Be sure to eat something light an hour or two before treatment. Try to avoid arriving on an empty stomach or after a large meal.
- Try to avoid the intake of caffeine and pain medication for a few hours before you arrive.
- Wear loose comfortable clothing.
- Write down any questions you may have for the doctor.
- Use the bathroom. It can be uncomfortable to lay on a table with needles and relax if you really have to go to the bathroom. We always ask our patients before a treatment, but it is a good idea to take care of this before you enter the treatment room.
An acupuncturist undergoes at least 2-4 years of graduate coursework in the biomedical sciences, oriental medicine, dietary therapy, and acupuncture techniques as well as several hundreds of patient contacts and thousands of clinical hours treating patients. Most states require acupuncturists to have taken the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine boards (NCCAOM) to be licensed with the designation of licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.).
In some states, medical doctors can use acupuncture within their practice after taking a training course. While receiving treatments from these doctors may be beneficial, a few months of intense reading and some hands-on labs do not teach the medical doctors to tailor treatment protocols to the individual the way the Traditional Chinese Medicine is usually practiced. Often, medical doctors use certain points for the treatment of a condition, neglecting to take into account the person’s constitution. Practicing acupuncture in this manner does a disservice to the profession and the consumer. Please be sure to check the education and credentials of your acupuncturist to ensure that you go to a practitioner who has been trained in depth about the art of Chinese Medicine.
In China, acupuncture and oriental medicine is often the first option for the treatment of various ailments. This elegant system of medicine has been helping individuals, families, and communities for thousands of years.
In 1997 the U.S. National Institute of Health published a Consensus Statement on the use and effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety of conditions. Their conclusions were as follows:
“Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States. While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups.
However, promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma where acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful.”
Acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization to be effective treatment supported with clinical trials for the following conditions:
– Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
– Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
– Biliary colic
– Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
– Dysentery, acute bacillary
– Dysmenorrhea, primary
– Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
– Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
– Hypertension, essential
– Hypotension, primary
– Induction of labor
– Knee pain
– Low back pain
– Malposition of fetus, correction of
– Morning sickness
– Nausea and vomiting
– Neck pain
– Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
– Periarthritis of shoulder
– Postoperative pain
– Renal colic
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Tennis elbow
The following consists of conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but further clinical trials are needed:
– Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
– Acne vulgaris
– Alcohol dependence and detoxification
– Bell’s palsy
– Bronchial asthma
– Cancer pain
– Cardiac neurosis
– Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
– Competition stress syndrome
– Craniocerebral injury, closed
– Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
– Epidemic hemorrhagic fever
– Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
– Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
– Female infertility
– Facial spasm
– Female urethral syndrome
– Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
– Gastrokinetic disturbance
– Gouty arthritis
– Hepatitis B virus carrier status
– Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
– Labor pain
– Lactation, deficiency
– Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
– Ménière disease
It depends. Some patients may feel improvement after one session however most patients feel an effect from acupuncture within 2-3 treatments. The pace of improvements is specific to their condition and can also include a reduction in pain, an increase in energy, better quality of sleep or an improvement in digestion. If the condition is acute, it will usually resolve in fewer treatments (~4-8 treatments) while chronic conditions may take longer.
Since every individual and their circumstance are unique, predicting the exact number of sessions needed is often impossible. How your condition responds depends on how long you have had it and whether you may be contributing to it through certain lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, lack of sleep, or eating unhealthy foods that promote inflammation. A general rule of thumb is that it takes about a month of treatment for every year that one has had the condition.
In our experience, most patients need 8-10 acupuncture sessions before we can properly evaluate how their condition is responding to treatment. Sometimes a patient will find relief after one treatment. Most times patients notice an effect that will last for a few days and then slowly return. Other times they notice an increase in discomfort followed by a significant decrease in symptoms.
With continued treatment and herbal therapies, effects can become long lasting. Many patients choose to continue care even after their condition is addressed, because they experience benefits in other areas such as improved sleep, better digestion, or increased energy. Acupuncture is also a wonderful tool for relaxation and stress reduction.
No, you do not need to believe in acupuncture and oriental medicine for your treatments to work. We encourage our patients to learn how this wonderful medicine can help them improve their health, but one does not need to understand it fully. Acupuncture has been proven effective even for animals who obviously do not have any beliefs.
Most patients report that they occasionally feel the prick of the needle (described like the bite of a mosquito) followed by dull ache, heavy sensation, warmth, or slight tingling in the area needled. The needles are inserted subcutaneously or into a muscle or tendon juncture, usually about 1/8-1/2″ deep (the depth depends on the area being needled
Sometimes the needles will be manipulated and the patient experiences a mild “Qi” sensation (pressure, tension then a release), which helps engage the patient’s body to rebalance itself. If the patient feels any discomfort while being needled, they should tell their practitioner about it so that the needle position can be adjusted. The needle may have inadvertently hit a hair follicle (which has a lot of nerve endings) or be near a vessel or nerve and be irritating it. With a minor adjustment, most patients will then relax into their treatment. After insertion, most patients relax and sometimes fall asleep during the treatment. Patients joke that they visit us for their mid-afternoon nap. Being relaxed during the treatment is very important, as it allows the treatment to be more effective. When working with children, acupuncturists may choose acupressure rather than acupuncture, which involves using finger pressure on the same points where a needle would normally be used.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin hair-like needles into points located on your body. Acupuncture needles are solid, have a rounded edge, are sterilized and for single use only. They are not like the hypodermic needles you see when you visit the doctor for an injection or blood draw.
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