Today I came across an especially disturbing article about a woman who suffered a pneumothorax, or punctured lung, after receiving acupuncture performed by her massage therapist. Unfortunately, this is not the first case of damage caused by a non-acupuncturist, nor will it be the last. Stories such as these highlight the dangers of allowing lesser trained professionals to perform what is, essentially, a highly specialized form of medicine.
So, why am I linking to an article that discusses a possible danger of acupuncture? As horrible as Kim’s story is, it illustrates why it is so important to visit a Licensed Acupuncturist. In the last two years alone, I have seen physical therapists and massage therapists be granted the ability to use acupuncture after only minimal training. While I feel that allowing other practitioners to use acupuncture can only be beneficial in the long run (more practitioners= more people helped!), it is imperative that anyone using acupuncture undergo full training on the subject. Let’s compare the differences in education:
In the article above, Kim’s massage therapist “did the acupuncture program at McMaster University, provided over five three-day weekends, plus 174 hours of ‘self-directed home study.‘” The entry-level of education for a certified acupuncturist is a 3-4 year Master’s degree consisting of over 2000 hours, including 600 hours of clinical practice. Acupuncturists must also pass 3-4 National Board Examinations before becoming licensed in the state of Kentucky. Finally, 60 hours of continuing education are required every 4 years in order to maintain Board certification.
The difference here is obvious. Acupuncturists do not advocate against others using acupuncture because we are being selfish, but because of the dangers involved in letting an unskilled practitioner insert needles into patients’ bodies. We undergo countless hours of training in both western and eastern medicine in order to prevent situations exactly like what Kim experienced.
A 2001 study found “no serious adverse events were reported after 34,407 acupuncture treatments” by professional acupuncturists.
If you or a loved one are considering undergoing acupuncture, please take the time to find a licensed practitioner who has obtained at least a Master’s degree in acupuncture. It’s simply not worth putting your health at risk.
For a list of Board-certified acupuncturists in your area, visit http://www.nccaom.org/find-a-nccaom-certified-practitioner.