(December 17, 2002) www.iVillage.com, a leading source for women’s information online, and Cosmopolitan magazine recently reported that Medical Acupuncturists are “rigorously trained in multiple styles of acupuncture.” They went on to say that “If you are already receiving treatment from a licensed acupuncturist, think about partnering with a medical acupuncturist to help ensure that you’re receiving the most benefit from treatment.” These comments incorrectly suggest that Licensed Acupuncturists are less competent and less safe than Medical Acupuncturists.
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) requires Licensed Acupuncturists to undergo “at least 1,725 hours of training” in acupuncture. In California, the standard is even higher. A recently passed California Bill (AB 1943) raised the educational requirements for acupuncturists even higher – from 2,348 to 3,000 hours.
Licensed Acupuncturists receive a much more rigorous and diverse acupuncture education. The average accredited acupuncture program in the United States consists of 2,642 total hours. This includes 1,130 hours in acupuncture theory, 909 hours clinical practice, and 492 hours in Western medical sciences. Nationally certified acupuncturists must also complete 60 hours of continuing education every four years to maintain their certification.
In contrast, the 300-hour acupuncture training programs for physicians, chiropractors and dentists have no core curriculum, no minimum educational standards, no examinations to ensure basic competency, and no continuing education requirement. In many states, physicians can practice acupuncture without any certification at all.
Acupuncture is based on a distinct medical system and body of theories. Beyond the hours in biomedical sciences, the skills necessary for the practice of medicine, chiropractry or dentistry do not transfer to acupuncture practice. It is therefore questionable if western physicians are capable of safely and effectively practicing a medicine that acupuncture students spend three of their four Masters-level years studying.
In regards to safety, acupuncture typically comprises at least two-thirds of a Licensed Acupuncturist’s practice, giving them significantly more clinical experience than most physician-acupuncturists. Data compiled by researchers in Japan and the United Kingdom, and analyses of malpractice claims in the U.S. indicate that acupuncture is safe 99.84% of the time. These studies accounted for a total of 121,520 acupuncture treatments. In only 0.16% of treatments did patients experience minor adverse events like dizziness or slight bleeding. The remaining treatments were completely safe.
According to Jim Dowden, Executive Administrator of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA), “Most of our MD’s use acupuncture as an add-on modality; it comprises just 10-20% of their practice.” When asked about the iVillage inaccuracies, he commented, “I wasn’t aware of that information. It certainly doesn‚t come from anything we‚ve said.”
Those who perform acupuncture without going through an extensive training program reduce the effectiveness of treatments and create a possible danger to the public. To not educate consumers about the difference between a properly trained Licensed Acupuncturist and an inadequately trained certified acupuncturist is irresponsible and misleads consumers.
For more information on the qualifications of Licensed Acupuncturists, please contact the National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance at (253) 851-6896.