Acupuncture is one of the oldest therapies in the world. It has been estimated to have been practiced in China for approximately 2,000-4,000 years. Citizens of the United States of America were first introduced to this healing method in the 1970’s, by New York Times reporter James Reston, who in 1971 wrote about his postoperative experience in China. Doctors successfully utilized acupuncture to alleviate his pain, after he underwent an emergency appendectomy.
Acupuncture is a healing technique
utilizing insertion of needles in key sites to stimulate specific points
in the body. Traditional Chinese theory differs greatly from Western
theories as to the resulting affect of acupuncture treatment.
According to Traditional Chinese culture
acupuncture’s main goal is maintenance of balance of yin and yang – the
concept of polar opposites that are complementary in any phenomena in
the universe. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that
the body's vital energy, or qi, flows between the skin surface and the
internal organs along invisible channels called meridians; blockages
cause pain and disease. By improving the circulation of qi in
corresponding yin and yang organs and body systems, balance and healing
Western medical researchers have come up
with their own theories. Two main theories have evolved from studies
conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain. The Gate Control
Theory which was introduced by Melzack and Wall in early 1960’s posits
that pain is perceived by the brain in accordance with signals it
receives through nerve gates in the spinal cord. Acupuncture is believed
to block the transmission of those signals to the brain. The other
theory - Endorphin Theory speculates that acupuncture triggers the
release of endorphins which are pain inhibiting chemicals in the brain.
Other scientific research has indicated
that acupuncture improves different systems in the body including the
immune system, the circulatory system and muscular flexibility. In fact
the National Institute of Health convened a health panel in 1997 which
found that in clinical studies acupuncture was shown to be effective in
alleviation of many ailments including: post chemo and postoperative
nausea, different types of pain, addictions, asthma as well as aiding in
after stroke rehabilitation. The World Health Organization lists over 40
conditions that can be helped by acupuncture treatment.
Currently in the United States there are
about 6500 licensed acupuncturists, and approximately 3000 medical
doctors who have incorporated acupuncture as part of their medical
practice. Each individual state in the United States differs in its
regulations and requirements for acquiring an acupuncture license, (with
some having no set rules) about forty (40) states have established a set
standard for training in acupuncture.
The educational requirements for those states requiring licensure as
well as the acupuncture board are as follows:
In addition, a graduate of an accredited acupuncture school must be at least 21 years of age to acquire his/her licensure.
Medical doctors who add acupuncture to
their medical practice must successfully complete course work in both
theory and practice of acupuncture.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) regulates the needles used for the practice of acupuncture. The
strict requirements include use of sterile, nontoxic needles that are
labeled for single use. In addition, acupuncture needles can only be
used by qualified and licensed practitioners.
In other countries licensing criteria vary. In Canada, each individual province has different regulations. Currently British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have licensing requirements for acupuncture. Variation by state also exists in Australia, while the governments of the United Kingdom and Israel do not regulate the practice. Japan requires completion of a 4 year program in an accredited university program and the successful passing of a licensing exam.