Finding a Qualified Acupuncturist – What You Need to Know in Order to Keep Yourself Safe

It’s a common scenario. A person has been having constant, nagging pain. They’ve seen their Medical Doctor along with several specialists. The majority of the doctors have given them two options – surgery or pharmaceutical drugs. But neither option is appealing to the patient. So they begin to search for an alternative. Somewhere they hear that acupuncture might help their situation. And so the search for a practitioner begins.

When performed by an appropriately trained professional, acupuncture is safe and effective. However, a prospective patient must make sure that their acupuncture practitioner has had the proper training. Otherwise, they are likely putting themselves at risk for harm.

Without proper training, incorrect needling can damage major nerves and blood vessels, creating severe pain and internal bleeding. Without proper training, organs can be punctured. The Lungs are the prime candidate, but all organs, including the Heart, Liver, Spleen, and Urinary Bladder can all easily be pierced through poor acupuncture technique. Without proper training, one can suffer severe burns and scarring from improper moxibustion. Without proper training in Clean Needle Technique, bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis and HIV can easily be spread from patient to patient. Visit

So how can a prospective patient know if an acupuncturist has the proper training so that these problems will not occur?

The initials “L.Ac” stand for “Licensed Acupuncturist.” If these letters are behind a practitioner’s name, it’s a good bet they have received a solid amount training, most likely a Masters Degree, and have passed their state’s licensing requirements. However, licensing requirements vary from state to state. So it is a very good idea to check out just what your state government requires of a practitioner before they are allowed to practice in your area.

Medical Doctors and Chiropractors are also allowed to practice acupuncture in most states. But do the homework and find out exactly how many hours of training they are required to have in order to practice acupuncture. In general, most M.D.’s and Chiropractors will have substantially less training than your standard Licensed Acupuncturist. Because of this lack of training, they do not fully understand or utilize basic Oriental Medicine Theory and Diagnosis. In order for an acupuncture treatment to be effective, a practitioner must have a clear understanding of Oriental Medicine Theory. Otherwise, they’re likely putting needles in people with no conclusive idea about the outcome of their treatment. Doctors and Chiropractors call the form of acupuncture that they practice “Medical Acupuncture.” To learn more about the modality, this website is very informative:

Another good idea is to check if the school your prospective practitioner attended is accredited by the ACAOM. The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) is the national accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit Master’s-level programs in acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession. The ACAOM’s list of accredited programs can be found here:

A certification in Clean Needle Technique is a must for a true acupuncturist. The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) have set the standards in Clean Needle Technique. Make certain the practitioner has their Clean Needle Certification from the CCAOM.

It is also a good idea to see if the practitioner has attained a National Certification through the NCCAOM. The mission of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is to establish, assess, and promote recognized standards of competence and safety in acupuncture and Oriental medicine for the protection and benefit of the public. Practitioners must pass an extremely rigorous and in-depth test before they can become Nationally Certified. In order to keep their National Certification, practitioners are required to hone and update their skills by taking a specific number of Continuing Education hours every few years.