Acupuncture is regarded by most westerners as an unusual healing method to say the least. But it has received a great deal of acceptance over the past 10 years as more and more scientific research is confirming its safety and effectiveness for treating such conditions as back pain, migraines, allergies, infertility, chemotherapy-induced nausea, menopausal symptoms, and insomnia, just to name a few.

Oprah Receives Acupuncture with Dr. Oz by her side.

Even popular culture has embraced Acupuncture, but not because it is some fad. Dr. Mehmet Oz explains that Acupuncture has been used as an effective medical system for thousands of years and is based on the regulation of Qi ("chee") or energy flowing throughout the body. Diseases or pain occurs when Qi flow is disrupted.

See Oprah receiving acupuncture with Dr. Oz by her side in April 2007 on the Oprah Show. Even Oprah states that Acupuncture doesn't hurt!

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as a medical system and has issued statements validating its effectiveness for treating over 25 specific conditions.

The National Institutes of Health issued a formal statement regarding the effectiveness of Acupuncture stating its safety and promise in treating many conditions for which western medicine has little to offer

The 1997 NIH Consensus Statement concludes that,

"promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative 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, in which 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."

As more and more research is conducted, I have no doubt that acupuncture's validity as a scientifically based medical model will be confirmed. There will always be people who do not "believe" in it. I should know, because I was one of them! You can read my story, From Acupuncture Skeptic to Believer and Beyond (opens in a new window).

Finding An Acupuncturist

If you think you want to try acupuncture to treat your health condition, make sure you find a licensed (or similarly qualified) acupuncturist. Each state has its own laws regulating acupuncture and the training requirements to provide acupuncture. Generally speaking, if an acupuncturist has graduated from an accredited institution and passed the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) board certification exam then they are qualified to apply for a license to practice acupuncture. (Click Here to search your state for NCCAOM certified acupuncturists.)

As I mentioned, each state has its own laws regulating the practice of acupuncture and their own designation for professional acupuncturists. As an example, here are some of the letters you might see after an acupuncturist's name showing that they have met their state's specific requirements.

  • LAc = Licensed Acupuncturist
  • RA = Registered Acupuncturist
  • CA = Certified Acupunctuist
  • Dipl. Ac. = Diplomat of Acupuncture
  • DOM = Doctor of Oriental Medicine
  • OMD = Oriental Medical Doctor
  • MAcOM = Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

A DAOM is a special designation for those licensed acupuncturists who have furthered their studies and earned a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from an accredited college

Medical Doctors have different requirements and are designated as "Physician Acupuncturists" or "Medical Acupuncturists". They do not provide the full scope Traditional Chinese Medicine but instead utilize a system of diagnosis and treatment that integrates the western biosciences with acupuncture treatment. My recommendation is to find a doctor who is Board Certified in Medical Acupuncture, which means that they have far more training than the 200-300 hour minimums required by each state. In addition, many physicians use acupuncture as an adjunct to their medical specialty practice.

If you are looking for a licensed acupuncturist in the Vancouver, Washington / Portland, Oregon area there are many excellent practitioners. Both Washington and Oregon have progressive laws protecting and promoting the acupuncture profession.

Health Insurance carriers are starting to cover for acupuncture treatments mostly because consumers are demanding it. This is strange given that the cost-effectiveness of acupuncture compared to expensive and risky hospital procedures is clear. Nonetheless, call your health insurance company to see if you have coverage for acupuncture. If you have an acupuncturist who you really want to work with and they are "out of network" ask your insurance carrier what the reimbursement rate is for out-of-network versus in-network providers in your specific policy.

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One thing we know for sure... Acupuncture Works!

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