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. A number of therapies can be used, 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.
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course.
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.
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.
National Association for Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture (NCAMASA)
P O Box 1366
Sea Point, 8060
Tel: (021) 697-0611/3 Fax: (021) 696-9398
The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA)
5 de Havilland Crescent South
Tel: (012) 349 2331
Fax: (012) 349 2327