How Qualified is your acupuncturist?

To become an Acupuncturist, A student attends a graduate school program in Traditional Chinese Medicine for 3 -4 years. Most acupuncture schools require 2,500-3,000 hours of training before graduation. Once the training has been completed, graduates sit for the national exam given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), which is the ONLY National Board examination certifying Acupuncturists in the United States.

A Minimum of 1,800 hours of Chinese Medical Education and supervised clinical training, plus graduation from an Accredited Acupuncture School (which now require a minimum of 2,475 hours) is needed to sit for this exam. It is a two day test of written and practical Acupuncture skills and theory.

An Acupuncturist, after passing the NCCAOM is awarded the title "Diplomate of Acupnuncture of the NCCAOM" (Dipl.Ac.) Certification is renewed every four years with the requirement of completing at least 60 hours of continuing education.

The Colorado State Department of Regulatory Agencies regulates acupuncture, in the state of Colorado. Only those who pass the NCCAOM exam are awarded the title of "Licensed Acupuncturist" (L.Ac.) by the State of Colorado.

The Acupuncture Association of Colorado (AAC) is the Professional Association for NCCAOM Board Certified - Licensed Acupuncturists in this state. AAC Professional members are L.Ac and/or NCCAOM Dipl.Ac's. So, how qualified is YOUR Acupuncturist? Ask them what their training was? Ask if they are L.Ac and/or NCCAOM certified?


So, what is the difference between “acupuncture” and “dry needling”?

Its the same thing!  Acupuncture needles are solid thus “dry”, versus hypodermic needles that can inject or draw fluids through them.  There is a real difference, however, in how the needles are used and the experience of the practitioner using them.  Not all “acupuncturists” are created equal.

Some practitioners have as few as 100 hours of training and are given a “certificate” in acupuncture. These practitioners tend to be chiropractors, physical therapists, MDs, or DOs and will use the term “dry needling” in lieu of calling it acupuncture. Dry needling, also often referred to as “Trigger Point Therapy”,  is just a modern term for what the Chinese called “hit medicine” or trauma medicine and is only a very small part of understanding the art of Oriental Medicine.

A “licensed acupuncturist” (LAc) is required to have a minimum of 4 years (nearly 3,000 hours) of training in the art and techniques of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. To practice in the State of Colorado, licensed acupuncturists must sit for an extensive national board exam given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), then meet the requirements of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to qualify for state licensure.

The type of practitioner you choose for your care is certainly up to you. Many of the practitioners that simply hold a certificate in acupuncture (DCs, PTs, MDs, DOs) can most definitely learn to be skillful in the art of dry needling, Trigger Point Therapy, and possibly the very complex ancient Oriental “meridian” therapy, but true competency comes from a thorough education and years of daily practice, not just occasional use.

Take charge of your health by asking questions and checking credentials when selecting a practitioner for your care.

*Content written by Allison Suddard, LAc

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