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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 may use and prescribe herbal medicines to treat patients and give dietary advice. Tuina (massage), moxibustion (heat), cupping (suction), exercise therapy and laser therapy are other alternatives acupuncturists may use to treat patients. They may 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 organizational 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.

Satisfying Aspects
- helping clients overcome a specific medical problem or disorder
- setting own hours of work
- working with people
- working without close supervision

Demanding aspects
- having to work irregular hours
- having to stand for long periods
- trying to please difficult customers
- the delicate work locating the exact insertion position of the needles could cause stress

An acupuncturist should:
- have concern for others
- be patient, gentle, tactful and compassionate
- have an interest in the body, ailments, and cures
- have good verbal communication and listening skills
- have self-confidence and ability to inspire confidence in others
- be dedicated and empathetic
- be responsible, accurate and observant
- have good concentration
- have manual dexterity - a reasonable level of skill with hands
- have good hand-eye coordination

School Subjects
No specific requirements

Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Sciences

A basic practical knowledge of acupuncture techniques and philosophy is essential for practising as an acupuncturist.

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

Acupuncturists normally work on their own and often 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. As acupuncture is complementary to other paramedical practices, it can also be practised by different practitioners in conjunction with their main line of business, for example by chiropractors and somatologists (beauty therapists).

National Association for Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture (NCAMASA)
P O Box 1366
Sea Point, 8060
Tel: (021) 697-0611/3 Fax: (021) 696-9398