Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some frequently asked questions about Acupuncture, conditions it treats and NYS Acupuncture Laws. We hope these are of interest and provide you with helpful information.
Q. What is Acupuncture?

A. Acupuncture is one of five branches of Traditional Medicine. The other branches include nutritional guidance, Tui na ( a form of Chinese Medical Massage), physical and mental exercise ( Qi Gong and Tai Ji), and herbal therapy. In NYS Acupuncture is defined in the Education Law as:

[t]he treating, by means of mechanical, thermal or electrical stimulation effected by the insertion of needles or by the application of heat, pressure or electrical stimulation at a point or combination of points on the surface of the body predetermined on the basis of the theory of the physiological interrelationship of body organs with an associated point or combination of points for diseases, disorders and dysfunctions of the body for the purpose of achieving a therapeutic or prophylactic effect.

NYS Education Law,§ 160.

From the Traditional Medical perspective, acupuncture is the manipulation of the body’s energy through the insertion of fine needles at specified points on the body with the goal of helping the body to heal and strengthen. This energy is commonly referred to as Qi (pronounced Chee). Illness occurs as a manifestation of disordered Qi. Acupuncture helps to re-order and balance the Qi and thereby eliminate the underlying condition as well as the symptoms.

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Q. How Does Acupuncture Work?

A. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points on the body often followed by specific manipulation of the needles or addition of a mild electric current through the needles. The selection of the points depends on the particular condition of the patient and the diagnosis given by the practitioner. There are currently several explanations for how exactly Acupuncture achieves the effects it has. Traditionally, it works through the manipulation of Qi to effect a particular result. Illness is thought to be the result of a disorder of essential body substances of Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang. To much, too little, or disorder of these substances will result in an imbalance in the function of the body’s systems and over time those imbalances will manifest in a collection of symptoms associated with a particular illness.

These substances travel through the body in channels, meridians or pathways. Each of us has twelve primary channels and eight extraordinary channels as well as other branches. They deliver the essential substances throughout the body to nourish organs, systems and body surfaces. Each of the body’s organs, channels and systems is connected through the channel system. If there is an imbalance in one, it affects another associated organ or system.

More modern explanations of how acupuncture works focus on the effect of acupuncture on the hormones and neurotransmitters. Studies show that acupuncture can regulate the level of certain hormones in the body. For instance acupuncture increases the levels of endorphins in our body’s. Endorphins are hormones which affect brain centers that have an effect on our emotional wellbeing — they improve our sense of wellbeing. This explains why so many people report an improved sense of wellbeing following an acupuncture treatment.

Regardless of the theory subscribed to, there is no question that acupuncture works on many and varied conditions and research continues to uncover mechanisms behind it.

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Q. What Does Acupuncture Treat?

A. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its findings regarding acupuncture in a publication titled “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials.” It states,

[G]enerally speaking, acupuncture treatment is safe if performed properly by a well trained practitioner. Unlike many drugs, it is non-toxic, and adverse reactions are minimal . . . acupuncture is comparable with morphine preparations in its effectiveness against chronic pain, but without the adverse effects of morphine, such as dependency. It notes there are numerous conditions for which acupuncture has been shown to be effective.

Those conditions include:

  • Tension headache
  • Migraine
  • Facial pain
  • Craniomandibular disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Restricted joint motion
  • Muscle spasm
  • Arthralgia
  • Peri-arthritis
  • Cervical Spondylitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Epicondylitis
  • Fascitis
  • Low Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Radicular pain syndromes
  • Inflammation
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Biliary and Renal Colic
  • Traumatic pain
  • Post-operative pain
  • Labor Pain
  • Reduction in Duration of Labor
  • Regulation of Blood Pressure
  • Stimulation of Immune System
  • Neuralgia
  • Sequeale of Stroke
  • Hemiplegia
  • Aphasia
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Facial Spasm
  • Facial Spasm
  • Insomnia
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Tonsilitis
  • Sore Throat
  • Bronchial Asthma
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • Acute and Chronic Gastritis
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Morning Sickness
  • Irritable Colon
  • Chemotherapy induced Leukopenia
  • Primary Dysmenorrhea
  • PMS
  • Regulates hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis
  • Induction of Labor
  • Stimulates Lactation
  • Hypotension
  • Angina Pectoris
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Drug Dependence
  • Diarrhea

Similarly, the New York State Board of Acupuncture (the independent Board which regulates the practice of acupuncture in NYS) has identified many conditions that it notes may respond to acupuncture. These include conditions relating to:

  • Neurological system
  • Musculo-skeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Gynecological and reproductive system
  • Digestive system
  • Gento-urinary system

The Board also states that acupuncture may help with:

  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Maintaining emotional balance
  • Stress reduction and detoxification

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Q. What Training and Credentials Do Acupuncturists Have?

A. In NYS acupuncturists are independent health care providers; you do not need a Dr’s referral to be treated. The requirements for licensure have changed over time. Currently, in NYS Licensed Acupuncturists are required to undertake a course of study involving 4,050 hours of classroom instruction, supervised clinical experience, and out of classroom or out of clinic study assignments. This must be done at an institution with a program registered and approved by the NYS Board of Regents. This must be done at an institution that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Board of Regents.

In addition, to obtain a license, an NYS acupuncturist must successfully complete an examination of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The individual may then receive a License to Practice Acupuncture in the State Of New York. He or she will be designated L.Ac. The initial license is good for a period of 3 years. Thereafter, the licensed must be renewed every three years.

You can determine of a person is currently licensed by checking the NYS Department of Education Online License Verifications.

There are other designations in NYS that enable a person to practice acupuncture. These relate to medical doctors, dentists and individuals who practice acupuncture for the treatment of alcoholism, substance dependence or chemical dependency (detox pratitioners).

M.D.s and Dentists are permitted to practice acupuncture after having completed 200 hours of study and 100 hours of supervised clinical experience. Detox practitioners have training provided by a hospital or other institution determined to have adequate resources and may only provide treatment in a hospital or clinical program and the practice must be limited to the treatment of alcoholism, substance dependence or chemical dependency.

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Q. How Do You Select An Acupuncturist?

A. One of the best ways to find an acupuncturist is to ask people you know for a recommendation. If you do not know anyone who has had acupuncture, then you can find listing on this website using our Find an Acupuncturist link and on the websites of the National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Once you have located one or two options then you should contact the individual practitioner and briefly discuss your situation. It is important to be comfortable with your practitioner. It is appropriate to ask about their training and experience, particularly as it relates to your particular condition.

If you have insurance coverage for acupuncture, determine if they accept insurance your particular insurance. Be sure to ask about fees and cancellation policies. You may also want to view the practitioner’s website to learn more about them and their practice. The bottom line is that they will become one of your health care providers and it is important that you satisfy yourself about their practice and that you are comfortable working with them.

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Q. What To Expect on a Visit to an Acupuncturist?

A. On you first visit your acupuncturist will first ask you to sign documents. Some of these are required by NYS law and others are required by federal law. He or she may also ask you to sign documents relating to insurance and general intake forms regarding your medical history.

He or she will then spend time with you to learn about many aspects of your life. To best understand you condition, your acupuncturist will ask a series of questions – commonly referred to as the 10 Questions. Often patients do not understand why so much information is gathered and how it relates to the particular condition for which they are seeking treatment. While it may seem that some of the questions are far afield, the fact is the theories by which acupuncture is practiced are based on a significant interdependence and interaction between all systems of the body. As a result, a seemingly unrelated or insignificant piece of information, may in fact be very important to the practitioners understanding of your situation. Be patient and try your best to provide as much detailed information as possible.

In addition, the practitioner will generally observe your physical appearance and overall demeanor, will look at your tongue, take your pulse and may palpate different parts of your body. The tongue and pulse observation is unlike that which you have experienced with your doctor. Your acupuncturist is actually obtaining information about specific organ and system functions.

The pulse taking is diagnostic and depending on how the pulse feels the acupuncturist can make certain assessments about your overall health and your particular condition. The pulse has three different positions and three different levels. By observing each level and position your acupuncturist can identify one of 28 classical pulses. From that information a more accurate diagnosis can be made.

Similarly, when observing your tongue, your acupuncturist gathers more information. Different parts of the tongue are associated with different organs. The tip represents the heart, the sides represent the liver and gallbladder and so forth. Your acupuncturist will look at your tongue color, texture, moisture, shape, length and tongue coat. Each of these factors will provide more information about you and allow the acupuncturist to refine his or her diagnosis.

Once a diagnosis is made, then a treatment plan is developed, including an acupuncture point prescription. The prescription involves the selection of specific points for your treatment. Other consideration will include the techniques to be used. These include the application of heat, or the use of an herb known as moxa, or the use of other modalities such as cupping or gua sha. Each has a different purpose and your acupuncturist will determine which are appropriate for you.

Your acupuncturist will discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan with you and may request some participation from you in your healing process. He or she will set a treatment schedule and you will be well on your way to improved health.