Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese philosophy art dating back some 2,500 years. It is a branch of holistic medicine, where a part of the body can be viewed only in relation to the whole. It is used with the aim of restoring good health by bringing about balance in the body. 

Acupuncturists use a number of therapies, including needle acupuncture, the heating of acupuncture points (moxibustion), tuina (a form of massage), exercise, diet recommendations and herbal treatments. Acupuncture involves treating patients by inserting thin, solid, metallic needles of various lengths into their bodies at specific points. 

This therapy may be used when patients seek an alternative or complementary treatment to traditional medicinal practice, for ailments such as addictions, arthritis, asthma, allergies, coughing and bronchitis, hypertension / high blood pressure, ulcers, infertility, back pain, tendonitis, neck and shoulder problems, stress / tension, headaches, migraine and various other medical conditions.

Acupuncturists first establish the history of the problems to diagnose patients. They examine patients and diagnose health problems using the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, tongue observation and by checking the pulse. They discuss treatment options with their clients. Then, if acupuncture is to be used, they apply their knowledge of acupuncture, select the appropriate needles and determine the points at which these should be inserted.

Each point is believed to be effective in the treatment of different ailments. The needles are left in the body for a specified time, according to the ailment being treated, and then removed. The insertion of the needles is not usually painful, and can cause feelings of well-being, tingling and warmth.

Acupuncturists also refer clients to other health services, when necessary, and keep careful client records. Acupuncturists need to have skills in diagnosing and practising acupuncture, and the ability to massage clients. They need to have good communication skills for dealing with their clients, and should also have good problem-solving skills, business skills and organisational ability.

Acupuncturists need to understand Traditional Chinese Medicine and its philosophy, theory and practice. They also need to know Western medical theories about the human body and how it functions, and treatment procedures. They must also know and abide by the code of ethics established by the medical profession.

Acupuncturists usually work independently in their own practice and interact with patients and other health professionals. They may work alongside other health professionals within a practice and have an administration team working for them. Hospital rooms can be used for this therapy, or a private practice at home may be more convenient.

Personal Requirements

  • patient, gentle, tactful and compassionate
  • interest in the body, ailments, and cures
  • good verbal communication and listening skills
  • self-confidence and ability to inspire confidence in others
  • dedicated and empathetic
  • responsible, accurate and observant
  • good concentration
  • manual dexterity
  • good hand-eye coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: MathematicsPhysical Science 
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences 


Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass.
Check the minimum admission requirements for the specific university programme you are applying to enter. See, Admission Points Score (APS).

What to Study

Degree: BCM Complementary Medicine: Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture This the only accredited qualification available at present. It is offered at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Registration with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) is a legal requirement for this occupation. Consult the AHPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements.


  • hospitals
  • health spas
  • the Body Stress Release Association
  • self-employment

Acupuncturists usually set up their own practices, but they may also work within established clinics in which other natural forms of health care are practised, such as naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine. 

Further Information

The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA)
Castelli Suite
Il Villaggio
5 de Havilland Crescent South
Persequor Tecknopark
Tel: (012) 349-2331

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to an acupuncturist in your area and ask permission to observe them at work
  • read up as much as you can about acupuncture and Chinese medicine generally

Programmes by Study Institutions

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