Acupuncture or Needling Therapy is a traditional form of oriental medicine which originated in China and is practiced by therapists all over the world. A component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Acupuncture is commonly used to treat pain or illness by inserting very fine needles at specific points on the skin, which are located near nerve endings. The word Acupuncture is derived from the Latin words 'acus' meaning needle and ‘punctura’ meaning to puncture.
Acupuncture is based on the theory that energy, called chi (pronounced 'chee'), flows through and around the body along pathways called meridians. In this system, it is believed that illness occurs when something blocks or unbalances the chi. Acupuncture is a way to unblock or influence chi and help it flow back into balance. It involves stimulating specific acupuncture points on the body. Acupuncture is done by putting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body. This is done to influence the energy flow. Sometimes heat, pressure, or mild electrical current is used along with needles. The insertion of thin, metallic, solid needles at the acupuncture points produces a wide variety of effects in the body of the patient. It helps to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of vital energy through the body and the various internal systems, of the patient. The effect of acupuncture may involve stimulation of nerves in the skin and muscles, which helps to restore imbalance of energy, stimulation of the immune system, release natural painkillers, release hormones called endorphins in the brain, which block pain.
Acupuncturists are healthcare practitioners who are trained to treat the entire individual rather than the specific illness or condition. In order to determine the proper course of treatment, they consider the patient's physical, mental and emotional condition and provide support to patients with chronic diseases. Acupuncture specialists treat a variety of medical conditions, symptoms, and side effects, including chronic pain (e.g., headache, back pain, arthritis), nausea and vomiting (e.g., after surgery or chemotherapy), stroke rehabilitation, menstrual cramps, cosmetic problems, skin diseases etc.
Acupuncturists use sterile needles or other methods (e.g., pressure) to stimulate specific points on the body. The most common technique involves inserting thin metal needles into the skin. Acupuncturists use different needling methods and vary the depth of the needles to produce different effects and results. In some cases, acupuncturist apply a tiny electric current to the needle (called electrical stimulation) or burns a specific herb over the needle to heat it before insertion (called moxibustion). (Acupuncture tools)
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is increasingly recognized as safe and cost effective in treating many acute and chronic ailments. Most people accept this treatment as it does not have any side effect, it is not painful and also the cost of the treatment is very less as compared to the other systems of medicine. But occasionally complications of acupuncture (acupuncture accidents) can occur from improper technique, lack of skill, or failure to observe clinical guidelines etc. These, however, are preventable, if acupuncture therapy is taken from a well qualified & experienced acupuncture specialist. Acupuncture often is used in combination with other therapies, such as herbal medicine, dietary supplements, exercise therapy, and massage therapy.
How to Become an Acupuncturist
Those who hold a degree (master's or doctor's) in Acupuncture can practice as an acupuncturist. This career requires proper training and experience, so one must make sure that they join in a renowned college for studying acupuncture courses. Indian Academy of Acupuncture Science, Aurangabad offers 1year diploma and 3year degree in Acupuncture for 10+2 students. The 2 year Master's degree course in Acupuncture are open for those having a bachelor's degree in healthcare or alternative medicine related subject such as MBBS, BHMS, BAMS, BUMS, Bachelor of Naturopathy, Bachelor of Acupuncture and DTCM (Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing). Degree in physiology, anatomy, biology and psychology will be helpful for aspiring acupuncturists to succeed in their careers. The institute also offers training and correspondence courses in Acupuncture.
Indian Board of Alternative Medicines, Kolkata duly registered by the Government of West Bengal offers 1 year Doctor of Medicine in Acupuncture - M.D. (ACU) through distance education. Those who have passed any degree course from authentic institution or completed their MBBS, BDS, DMS, DHMS, BHMS, BAMS, BASM, BEMS, BIAMS, BNYT, BATS, BUMS, BPT, B.Pharm, MD (AM) etc are eligible. For practitioners and research workers who are practicing for the last 10 years, the minimum basic qualification is exempted and they can directly apply for the Doctorate program. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU ) offers Online program in PG Diploma in Acupuncture for Medical graduates (Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga and Naturopathy) which can be completed within 1 to 3 years. International College of Acupuncture and Natural Medicine (ICANM) offers 1 year online certificate training course - with 4 contact sessions of 10 days each in a year. Physiotherapists and Dentists or those who possess Bachelors degree in Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga and Naturopathy can apply for this course. Alternative Medicine College offers 2 year Associate degree in Acupuncture for 10+2 students and 1 year post graduate diploma in Acupuncture for Graduates in healthcare or alternative medicine or related subject.
Course Module : Acupuncture courses teach students about the different aspects of Acupuncture like Acupuncture points of the body, Fundamentals of Acupuncture, Acupuncture Meridians, Five Element Theory, Ancilliary Acupuncture, Classical Acupuncture, Applied Acupuncture, history and philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Acupuncture theory, Practice of Acupuncture therapies etc. Students get in-depth knowledge about the art of inserting needles at the right points and giving relief to the patients, through these courses.
Skills required Those interested in a career in Acupuncture, must have a keen interest in alternative medicine and holistic healing therapies. In order to succeed in their profession, Acupuncturists need to possess a few personal qualities, specifically people skills:
- -Excellent interpersonal, communication and listening skills
- -Understanding and sensitivity
- -Self-awareness and emotional stability
- -A logical approach to solving problems
- -Good hand-eye coordination and a steady hand
Nature of Work and Job Prospects of Acupuncturists:
Acupuncturists play an effective role in not only helping to cure illnesses/ disorders, but also to prevent such illnesses/ disorders from occurring again. As any other medical practitioner, duties and responsibilities of an acupuncturist involves :
- -Carefully listening to the problems of the patient
- -Examining and diagnosing patient's symptoms, physiological disorders and injuries
- -Taking patient's medical history, their physical and emotional health, lifestyle and diet as well as sometimes taking their blood pressure
- -After diagnosing the exact problem, they explain to patients about the treatment they will perform and answer any questions patients may have
- -For the treatment, they take various factors into account, such as deciding the size of needles to use and where to insert them (there are 365 acupuncture points on the body).
- -Selecting specific points on the body to be treated and inserting needles according to the level of stimulation required.
- -Keeping records of treatment given to each patient.
- -Recommend therapeutic exercise or dietary guidelines to the patients.
An acupuncturist should be very conscientious and must accurately insert and manipulate needles because incorrectly used needles can potentially cause pain, infection, and punctured organs. To avoid infections, the needles used should be sterilized or disposable ones should be used. Job opportunities are available for acupuncturists in all health related fields such as clinics, gyms, health centers, rehabilitation centers, recovery care units and psychiatric wards to entail a balanced level of health in the patient. One can do research or can find job as a teacher in any universities or institutes providing Acupuncture courses.
The requirement for practicing as acupuncturist varies from state to state. Some states require acupuncturists to be medical doctors or chiropractors. A certified/ licensed Acupuncturist can work as an independent private practitioner or can start their own clinic. Self-employment is very common in this field. They can also work directly with Chiropractors or for oriental medical centers. Earnings of Acupuncturists Remuneration in this field mainly depend on the success of the practice. During the initial stage of acupuncture practice, one may not be able to earn much. With years of experience, an Acupuncturist can gain large number of regular clients and a decent steady income. Once they get established, they can charge fee per session and earn more. The duration of the treatment program varies depending on the severity of the problem.
Acupuncture Courses in India
- -Associate Degree in Acupuncture
- -Bachelor of Acupuncture
- -Certificate Course in Acupuncture
- -Certificate Course in Acupuncture and Reflexology
- -Diploma in Acupuncture (Correspondence/ Distance Education)
- -Diploma in Acupuncture
- -Doctor of Medicine in Acupuncture M.D.(Acu) (Correspondence/ Distance Education)
- -Doctor of Medicine in Acupuncture M.D.(Acu)
- -Master of Acupuncture
- -Post Graduate Diploma in Acupuncture
- -Post Graduate Diploma in Alternative Medicine in Acupuncture.