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Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

Doctor, can acupuncture help my condition?
Conditions Recommended for Acupuncture by W.H.O.
What is an acupuncture treatment like?
How does the acupuncturist manage infection control?
What training is required to practice acupuncture?
Can acupuncture help cancer patients?
Information Resources for doctors interested in medical acupuncture

Doctor, can acupuncture help my condition?
The best answer will come from an experienced practitioner. The practitioner, based on your medical history, condition, and what other treatments you have been or are receiving, can best help you decide whether acupuncture is suitable by itself or as adjunctive therapy. Please see the referral section of this website for a physician skilled in acupuncture near you.

I generally tell patients that if their treatment, according to a Western diagnosis with options, isnt resolving the problem,is quite expensive, or has significant side effects/hassles associated with it, then clearly acupuncture is worth a try. I include the Western diagnosis criteria because I think, as just an example, it is ridiculous to treat someones dizziness with acupuncture if what they need is to have excessive wax cleaned out from their ear canals. On the other hand, if one is having difficulty controlling or improving ones asthma with Western treatments, a trial of acupuncture makes utmost sense.

Conditions Recommended for Acupuncture by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.)

Respiratory Diseases

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Acute rhinitis
  • Common cold
  • Acute tonsillitis

Bronchopulmonary Diseases

  • Acute bronchitis
  • Bronchial asthma

Eye Disorders

  • Acute conjuctivitis
  • Cataract (without complications)
  • Myopia
  • Central retinitis

Disorders of the Mouth Cavity

  • Toothache
  • Pain after tooth extraction
  • Gingivitis
  • Pharyngitis

Orthopedic Disorders

  • Periarthritis humeroscapularis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Sciatica
  • Low back pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Spasm of the esophagus and cardia
  • Hiccups
  • Gastroptosis
  • Acute and chronic gastritis
  • Gastric hyperacidity
  • Chronic duodenal ulcer
  • Acute and chronic colitis
  • Acute bacterial dysentery
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Paralytic ileus

Neurologic Disorders

  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Facial paralysis
  • Paralysis after apoplectic fit
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Paralysis caused by poliomyelitis
  • Meniere's syndrome
  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
  • Nocturnal enuresis
  • Intercostal neuralgia

In addition, you might read "An Overview of Medical Acupuncture" by Dr. J.M. Helms. or the Acupuncture Information and Resource Package from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

What is an acupuncture treatment like?
This is difficult  to say because of the wide variations in the styles of acupuncture  performed. Generally three to fifteen needles will be placed.  Costs vary depending on locale and practitioners training and  experience.

How does the acupuncturist manage infection control?
Non-physician acupuncturists are required by law in most states to use disposable one-time-use sterilized needles. Physicians because of their experience and background in infection control have the perogative of using re-usable sterilized needles. These needles would need to be sterilized in the same way as any surgical instrument.

Because blood loss and bleeding are minimal with acupuncture, I am not aware of any attempt to require acupuncturists to wear gloves.

My review of the literature on the risk of infection associated with acupuncture assures me that if one receives acupuncture from a licensed practitioner in North America the risk of a serious infection is drastically less than the risk of a serious accident while traveling to the acupuncturist's office. The exception to this might be acupuncture being delivered in a hospital setting.

What training is required to practice acupuncture? Do you have recommendations in this regard?
Requirements can vary significantly worldwide. In most of Europe a person to legally practice acupuncture must first be a medical doctor. In this country there are non-physicians who are licensed to practice. Again there can be significant variations in requirements depending upon local laws.

You can review our requirements for membership in the AAMA as a guideline for recommendations for physicians wanting special training. We, as an organization, leave issues of credentialing of non-physicians as acupuncturists in the hands of non-physicians and politicians.

Can acupuncture help cancer patients?
Read the article "Acupuncture and Cancer Treatment."

Information Resources for doctors interested in medical acupuncture

If you are interested in integrating acupuncture in your current medical practice read "Incorporating Medical Acupuncture into a Standard Medical Practice."

Go to State Licensure for a list of requirements on a state-by-state basis. Also see State Laws.

Go to the membership page for our requirements for physician membership (MD, DO and DVM) in the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. And see the Continuing Medical Education page for training programs.

See a list of accredited acupuncture schools in the US for non-physicians.

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