What is Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine?
Acupuncture is the most well-known modality in the ancient tradition of East Asian medicine. East Asian medicine also includes other modalities such as moxibustion (the use of a warming herb), cupping, dietary and exercise recommendations, to mention a few. Having been used all over Asia in one form or another for thousands of years, East Asian medicine and acupuncture has been the primary form of health care for roughly a fifth of the world’s population for much of human history. Many patients in North America are now seeking to broaden their treatment options including acupuncture for safe and effective care of a wide range of ailments.
The Flow of Energy
Traditionally acupuncture is based on the principle that there are energy and information pathways throughout the body called meridians by which the body orchestrates its many functions. “Qi” (the Chinese word for energy, pronounced “chee”) flows through these pathways and is responsible for the body’s healthy function. Through a wide range of modalities, most notably acupuncture, practitioners direct qi through these meridians to improve overall health and encourage the body to rebalance itself. The focus is not so much on specific illness but on correcting underlying imbalance and thus returning normal function. Gradually, this process has led to the development of a comprehensive system of medicine that is now licensed in over 40 of the United States including Washington.
The World Health Organization
The WHO has recognized acupuncture’s effectiveness for over 40 common disorders, such as:
- Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders
- Ear, Nose & Throat Disorders
- Respiratory Conditions
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Gynecological Disorders
- Psycho-emotional & Neurological Disorders
- Acupuncture has been used for centuries throughout Asia to treat hundreds of other problems.
What is an Acupuncturist?
Acupuncturists graduate from a school that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), which is recognized by the US Department of Education to set standards for professional education. An acupuncturist’s training is three to four academic years of education at the master’s degree level and includes course work in diagnosis, pathology, therapeutics, and techniques as well as training in Western sciences such as: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pathology, Western clinical sciences, needle hygiene and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Extensive clinical rounds and supervised practice are essential pieces of the professional degree program. The State of Washington Department of Health (DOH) requires passing the Board Examination of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) to become a Licensed Acupuncturist/East Asian Medicine Practitioner (L.Ac. or EAMP).
To ensure proper needling hygiene, Washington State also requires that all acupuncturists receive Clean Needle Technique certification as approved by the NCCAOM. Continuing education in Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine is required to maintain NCCAOM status as a Diplomate of Acupuncture.
Look for providers who are NCCAOM Diplomates in addition to being state licensed. The NCCAOM maintains a list of active providers for consumers on its website (link below).
Some of the techniques and therapies used by Acupuncturists include:
- the use of acupuncture needles to stimulate points and meridians
- moxibustion (the use of a warming herb on points)
- electro-stimulation of points
- dermal friction such as Gua sha
- dietary advice based on East Asian medical theory
- East Asian massage techniques such as Tui na