Acupuncturists insert needles into various pressure points on the body to help restore a balance of energy to the body and help promote healing.
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that originates in the East. The theory behind acupuncture is that there are different channels of energy, called Qi, that flow through the body and correspond to certain internal organs. An acupuncturist uses a variety of techniques, but mainly the insertion of needles, to re-balance energy flow and restore health and wellbeing to the patient. Acupuncturists also use moxibustion (burning a dried herb above an acupuncture point) cupping, ear balls and electro-acupuncture, among other tools in their treatments.
Acupuncturists treat patients with a wide range of problems including arthritis, circulatory problems and high blood pressure to hypertension, anxiety, migraine, depression and addiction.
An acupuncturist's typical responsibilities include:
- taking a detailed history from clients
- assessing the patient and diagnosing problems
- discussing treatment options
- carrying out one-to-one treatment sessions usually lasting an hour
- inserting needles into the appropriate acupuncture points
- maintaining patient records
- monitoring patients' progress
- referring clients to other medical practitioners
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for an acupuncturist
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to build relationships with clients
- an interest in ancient medical practices
- an understanding approach and sensitivity to patients' problems
- emotional stability
- coordination and a steady hand to insert the needles
- good listening skills
- good organisation and business skills
- an ability to promote yourself and your business
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of acupuncturists
The majority of acupuncturists are self-employed working from home or visiting people in their houses and, therefore, it often involves weekends and evenings. They might also work from complementary healthcare centres and very occasionally for the NHS in areas such as pain management, or antenatal care, but this is often only part-time work.
Vacancies can be advertised on the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) website or on the NHS jobs webpage.
Qualifications and training required
As most acupuncturists are self-employed, reputation is key, so it's important to gain a qualification from an accredited organisation, such as the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) or The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM). The British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) lists courses that lead to membership of the BAcC. Most BAAB-approved courses are degree level, for which you will need at least 5 GCSEs (A* to C), including a science subject, and 2 A-levels. Scottish applicants are likely to require 3 – 4 Highers including a science subject. (no courses are currently available in Scotland) Mature students may be considered on the basis of their work experience. Generally, most Oriental medicine programs will encompass acupuncture and other treatments, like herbs.
For those who are already in a healthcare role, such as a doctor or nurse, who want to practise acupuncture, The British Medical Acupuncture Society can provide information on what additional qualifications or training you will need.
If you get a degree that combines acupuncture with other Eastern medicine, you'll be able to broaden your offering to clients to include your expertise on herbs, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition and massage. Some acupuncturists go into postgraduate education and then progress to teaching, writing, or research work.