Acupuncture Licensing

Frequently asked questions about licensed acupuncture practitioners and medical doctors.

What is the educational level of acupuncturists?

To qualify for licensure in California, a practitioner must qualify for and pass the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) licensure examination.

To qualify to sit for the NCCAOM exam, a student must complete a 3000-hour master degree level program at a NCCAOM-approved school or demonstrate equivalent training.

In Colorado, the acupuncturist must pass the National Certification Exam through the NCCAOM, once the candidate has passed the exam they are then eligible for Colorado licensure. The licensed practitioner is required to participate in state and nationally required continuing education classes, approximately 15 hours a year.

Do medical doctors practice acupuncture?

The term used for the practice of acupuncture by medical doctors is “medical acupuncture”. The consumer should be aware that unless medical acupuncturists carry the designation of L.Ac. they are not licensed or trained the same as an acupuncturist, their training in Oriental medicine and acupuncture may most likely be significantly less.

In Colorado, the acupuncturist must pass the National Certification Exam through the NCCAOM, once the candidate has passed the exam they are then eligible for Colorado licensure. The licensed practitioner is required to participate in state and nationally required continuing education classes, approximately 15 hours a year.

What is the difference between licensed acupuncturists and medical acupuncturists?

A California L.Ac. is required to take at least 805 hours of didactic training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine theory, 450 hours of herbal medicine, and have 950 hours of clinical experience out of the total of 3,000 hours of graduate study. In contrast, MD’s certified in “medical acupuncture” by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture are required to take only 200 hours of didactic training in acupuncture and 100 hours of clinical training.

Do not rely on an Oriental medical diagnosis of disease by an acupuncture practitioner who does not have substantial Oriental medical training. Because an individual is a medical doctor, it does not automatically mean that he or she has also had Oriental medical training. Our acupuncture in Littleton has the Oriental medical training to give the highest quality acupuncture care.

If you have received a diagnosis from a doctor and have had little or no success using conventional medicine, you should ask your doctor whether acupuncture might help. Keep in mind, your doctor may not be aware of the current research regarding acupuncture. Please visit our acupuncture office in Littleton to ask for a research pamphlet to give to your doctor. This brief pamphlet reviews the current research and evidence regarding acupuncture treatment.

Can patients address health issues collaboratively with their acupuncturist and MD?

Increasingly, acupuncture is complementing conventional therapies. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control surgery related pain in their patients. By providing both acupuncture and certain conventional anesthetic drugs, some doctors have found it possible to achieve a state of complete pain relief for some patients. They also have found that using acupuncture lowers the need for conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the drugs.

Is the use of acupuncture and alternative medicine increasing in the U.S.?

In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a panel of 12 distinguished physicians and scientists to review the history, licensing, and status of clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The result was the first formal endorsement of acupuncture by the NIH, stating, “There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.” The panel urged health professionals to consider acupuncture, particularly integrating its use with conventional medicine after a thorough medical workup.

The panel determined that evidence for relief of post-operative pain and nausea associated with pregnancy or chemotherapy is clear-cut. Other conditions, including stroke, headache and chronic low back pain, were listed as benefiting from acupuncture. The panel also noted that acupuncture appears to be effective in relieving common disorders such as menstrual cramps, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, addiction and asthma. They also recognized that acupuncture treatment could result in a reduction in the amount of pain medication or anesthesia that might otherwise be required.

Has acupuncture been cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat over 43 conditions?

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass reported: visits to practitioners and the use of alternative therapies increased 47% between 1990 and 1997. The research was conducted via telephone interviews in 1990 (1,539 adults) and 1997 (2,055).

A 47% increase in alternative medicine represented an estimated 427 million visits to practitioners in 1990, increasing to 629 million in 1997 – exceeding total visits to all primary care physicians in the U. S. (396 million in 1997).An estimated 83 million American adults (more than 4 out of 10) used some form of alternative medical treatment last year. An estimated $27 billion, most of it not reimbursed by insurance, was spent on alternative treatment in 1997.Types of Treatment: 42% comprised of treatment of existing illnesses and 58% for prevention and health maintenance. Traditional western medicine does not adequately address these two areas. “It is the beginning of acceptance of some forms of alternative medicine into mainstream medicine in the US,” said George Lundberg. “Acceptance the good old fashioned way – by merit.” According to an August 2001, study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which investigated the use of acupuncture, herbal medicines, yoga, massage and other complementary medicines: Americans, regardless of age, are relying on at least one of 20 different therapies studied. Across all age groups studied, of those that tried alternative therapy, 50% continued to use it 20 years later. The study authors write: “These responses imply that alternative therapies are perceived to be a force to be reckoned with for some time to come.”

Researchers at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, with the support of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), [OAM is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) predecessor], conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial and found that patients treated with acupuncture after dental surgery had less intense pain than patients who received a placebo. Scientists at the university also found that older people with osteoarthritis experienced significantly more pain relief after using conventional drugs and acupuncture together than those using conventional therapy alone.

OAM also funded several preliminary studies on acupuncture that have shown promising results in such diverse conditions as decreases in depressive episodes, improvement in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and reduced rate of breech births. Researchers reporting in the November 11, 1998, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial using moxibustion for breech births. They found that moxibustion applied to 130 pregnant women presenting breech significantly increased the number of normal headfirst births. that might otherwise be required.

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