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What is Medical Acupuncture?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Medical acupuncture is an acupuncture modality which is practiced by a qualified physician or a health care practitioner such as a chiropractor, as opposed to someone who has trained in an acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine school. The principles of medical acupuncture are slightly different from those of traditional acupuncture, although it is performed with the same goal: to bring a patient's body into balance and to stimulate the body's natural healing abilities so that the patient's condition will improve. Medical acupuncture can be used for pain management, and as adjunct treatment for a number of medical conditions, from stress to cancer.

In order to practice medical acupuncture, a practitioner can receive a variety of levels of training. In some areas, acupuncture classes for physicians are used to prepare people for certification and membership in a professional organization, while in other regions, physicians may do some study, take some classes, and start practicing without obtaining certification. People who are interested in medical acupuncture should pursue practitioners who belong to professional organizations, or who can document extensive training in acupuncture techniques and practices.

Traditional acupuncture targets points found along meridians of the body which are believed to act as channels for the body's natural energy. The practitioner identifies areas in which the energy is out of balance, and stimulates specific points to achieve harmony. In medical acupuncture, the practitioner may target similar areas of the body, but the explanation for why the acupuncture works is very different.

Practitioners of medical acupuncture believe that they are stimulating nerves in the body, which triggers a release of chemicals in the body and the brain. These chemicals can alter the perception of pain or trigger biological processes which will improve patient health. Practitioners base their belief on their knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and on the results of studies which have looked at how people respond to acupuncture, and what happens in the body during an acupuncture session. Some practitioners may also share a belief with traditional acupuncturists that they are bringing the body's energy into balance.

Some hospitals and clinics offer medical acupuncture as a treatment for their patients, and patients can also visit medical acupuncture clinics or request services from their regular doctor, as some general practitioners have studied acupuncture and other alternative medical modalities to provide more complete services to their patients. Pet don't have to left out either; veterinary acupuncture is an established discipline which is practiced by animal caregivers in some regions of the world, and a veterinarian may be able to offer acupuncture or offer a referral to someone who can.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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