On October 24 the country will celebrate National Acupuncture and Oriental medicine day. It is important to note that this day celebrates not just the medical technique of acupuncture but more importantly the medicine behind it. Not long ago the medical practice of acupuncture was regularly dismissed by the medical establishment as placebo, quackery and alternative medicine. Today acupuncture is gaining scientific acceptance and popularity. Acupuncture is endorsed by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health and is provided in the VA medical system and many hospitals.
Many states, like Wisconsin, recognized the rise of acupuncture as a medical profession. Certification standards and licensing are in place to protect the public. Only acupuncturists who meet the highest standards of training and certification are allowed to use acupuncture as a medical treatment.
There is however a common misunderstanding about acupuncture. Acupuncture is a medical treatment, but the term is also used to name a type of medical practice. “Acupuncturists” are trained in more than just how to stick needles in people. They are trained in medical diagnostic systems that rival modern biomedical medicine in complexity and provide many patients with the answers that they need, and can find no where else.
In modern biomedical medicine a surgeon is also defined by a medical technique; surgery. It is understood that one needs to be a trained physician in order to be a surgeon. In a short time anyone could learn how to cut and stitch a body. The ability to cut and stitch does not make a person a surgeon. States have practice laws to protect the public from people who do not meet the qualifications to practice this medical treatment. The biomedical diagnosis system provides the reasoning as to why or why not to use surgery as a medical treatment. Without that diagnostic system, the use of surgery would be seen as guess work and pose a threat to patients because of possible indiscriminate use.
Likewise acupuncture also has diagnostic systems that determine proper use. Just like surgery, anyone can learn the technique quickly, but this would be lacking in the knowledge that traditionally was used to determine when or how to best to use the technique. There are many studies that show that acupuncture is effective without these diagnostic systems, similarly, the stitching of a wound by an untrained person is also effective.
Acupuncture is becoming accepted and popular. Well meaning medical professionals are now using quick training in “dry needling”, “Trigger point therapy” and “medical acupuncture” to add acupuncture techniques to their medical practices. The public however often assumes incorrectly that all physicians, nurses and physical therapists and others who provide acupuncture, have proper certification and training to do so. The public needs to be aware of the training and dedication of all their medical practitioners. States have laws defining the level of training that is required to provide acupuncture as a medical system as well as a medical modality. It is disrespectful of the law, the acupuncturists and vulnerable patients to allow medical practitioners to circumvent the law for profit. Medical professionals who want to provide acupuncture services should be required to have the required state minimum level of training or hire someone who does. Patients who have been harmed by “acupuncture like” treatments need to report those instances to the State so that other patients can be protected from the misuse of acupuncture.