The Popularity of Acupuncture

Shawn Thistle, BK (Hons), DC, DAc, CSCS
January 07, 2008
Written by Shawn Thistle, BK (Hons), DC, DAc, CSCS
in the Health-Care Marketplace.  Regulatory changes are pending.
Chinese acupuncture has evolved over thousands of years, forming a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Once thought of as a mystical form of Eastern medicine, acupuncture has grown from its debut in North America more than 30 years ago to one of the most popular alternative therapies in the contemporary health-care marketplace.

Patients now seek acupuncture treatment in its various forms for a multitude of ailments including headaches, arthritis, addiction management, sports injuries and general well-being, to name a few.  Equally diverse is the selection of health-care providers now offering acupuncture, as TCM practitioners have been joined by medical doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, naturopaths, homeopaths, and other holistic medicine practitioners.  A natural corollary of this trend has been a continuing integration of acupuncture into a Western medicine model.  Utilizing a blend of ancient methods and modern biomedical concepts, practitioners of many disciplines are regularly incorporating acupuncture into their practices.  Many patients receive acupuncture treatment not only as a stand-alone therapy but as an integrated modality in a variety of health-care environments.

Acupuncture’s popularity has been further bolstered by the increasing attention it is being paid in scientific circles.  Numerous trials demonstrating its effectiveness have recently been published in major medical journals, with more to come.  Other interesting lines of research currently in progress include investigations into the biomechanical effects of acupuncture on connective tissue structure, function, and healing, and its impact on the peripheral and central nervous systems.

As mentioned above, many chiropractors now use acupuncture as an adjunct to their manual skills.  Most of them have received acupuncture training in a continuing education format.

In 1996, at the World Health Organization (WHO) Consultation on Acupuncture, guidelines were drafted to outline appropriate basic training and safety.  The guidelines, which include a core syllabus, cover basic requirements for training both non-physician acupuncturists and physicians wishing to utilize acupuncture.

Chiropractors, included in the “qualified physicians” category, are required to receive not less than 200 hours of instruction in order to practise acupuncture as a technique in the clinic.  There are a variety of acupuncture courses available to chiropractors in Canada.  Five of the programs are outlined in the following “Acupuncture Program Guide,” in an attempt to provide current information that will help interested chiropractors to make informed choices.

In Canada, only three provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec) currently have laws that regulate the practice of acupuncture.  To date, chiropractors in Ontario have been permitted to self-regulate members of the profession who practise acupuncture, but this may change.  On December 7, 2005, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care introduced Bill 50, “an act respecting the regulation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).”  This bill may result in the formation of a college of TCM, which could alter the way acupuncture is regulated for chiropractors.  Though future regulation is still uncertain, as of now, those chiropractors who have undergone training retain the right to use acupuncture.•

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