What is Acupuncture?
In general, acupuncture has three main benefits for the body:
- It relieves pain.
- It reduces inflammation.
- It restores homeostasis – the body’s ability to regulate its environment and maintain internal stability.
Since most diseases are characterized by pain, inflammation and the disturbance of homeostasis, we can see why acupuncture can be effective for every major system of the body. This includes the gastrointestinal, immune, circulatory, cardiac, cerebral, genitourinary, and endocrine systems.
Acupuncture promotes blood flow in the body
This is significant because everything the body needs to heal is in the blood, including oxygen, chemicals to reduce pain and inflammation, nutrients we absorb from food, immune substances and hormones. Improving proper blood flow is key to promoting and maintaining health. Blood flow decreases as we age and is impacted by trauma, injuries and many diseases.
Acupuncture wakes up the body’s own healing systems
Acupuncture creates miniscule “traumas” that signal the body to heal injuries. Responding to the tiny traumas created by acupuncture, the body targets and heals adjacent injured tissue.
Acupuncture releases the body’s own painkillers to reduce chronic pain
Inserting a very fine needle into the skin activates the brain to release powerful pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory chemicals like endorphins and norepinephrine. This process reduces both the perception and the intensity of chronic pain.
Acupuncture reduces tension in joints
Acupuncture specifically improves blood flow to shortened muscles in joints in the body like the neck, back, shoulders, hips or knees to relieve tension.
Acupuncture reduces stress
Acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a calming hormone from our peripheral nervous system that tells the body to relax. This is the opposite of the “fight-or-flight” message our bodies receive from our sympathetic nervous system in this continually fast-paced culture. Recent studies link a weakened peripheral nervous system function to many autoimmune diseases, like arthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
How to Choose a Qualified Acupuncturist
In choosing an acupuncturist, you need to establish two things:
- Is the acupuncturist qualified?
- Are you comfortable with her or him?
Both are important. The easy part is finding somebody that makes you feel comfortable. You can often get a sense about your acupuncturist from his or her website. Ask for recommendations from friends and family, too. The best way to know if you’ve found a good fit is to meet face to face.
Figuring out if the acupuncturist is qualified is a little more cut and dried.
To become a licensed acupuncturist in Texas, a student must complete a graduate program in Oriental Medicine that requires 2,800 to 3,200 hours of specialized training, depending on the program. Full-time students generally complete their degree in 4 to 5 years.
Next, Texas acupuncturists must be licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, which also regulates physicians and physician assistants. Licensed acupuncturists (L.Ac.) must meet the following criteria:
- Graduate from an acupuncture school that has been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)
- Have 1,800 hours of acupuncture training from an accredited acupuncture and Oriental medical school
- Of the required 1,800 hours, 450 hours must be in herbal training
- Be certified as a Diplomate in Acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)
- Take and pass the Council of College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) Clean Needle Technique course and practical examination
- Have a minimum of 60 college hours in addition to the acupuncture training
- Prove English proficiency
Compare this to Texas chiropractors who only need 100 hours of training in acupuncture and are not required to take any examination to test their skills. Or medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathy (DOs) who have NO minimum requirements to practice acupuncture in Texas, meaning they can practice with no training at all.
So, how qualified is your Acupuncturist? Find out more about Karen E. Nunley