Acupuncture FAQs

Q. WHO CAN PERFORM ACUPUNCTURE?
A. Acupuncturists who maintain a valid license issued by the Acupuncture Board and physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California. A dentist or podiatrist licensed in California may also practice acupuncture, only within the scope of their respective licenses and if they have completed the necessary training required by their respective licensing board.

Q. WHAT IS AN ACUPUNCTURIST ALLOWED TO DO?

A. An acupuncturist is allowed to engage in the practice of acupuncture, electroacupuncture, perform or prescribe the use of oriental massage, acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, breathing techniques, exercise, heat, cold, magnets, nutrition, diet, herbs, plant, animal, and mineral products, and dietary supplements to promote, maintain, and restore health pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 4937.

Q. WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
A. Needles are sterile, generally cause no bleeding upon entry or removal, with little or no pain being felt; however, slight bruising may be experienced on occasion. The number of treatments necessary will depend upon your condition, if your symptoms are chronic or acute and your health in general. The needles may vary in size, depending upon your condition and the course of treatment prescribed. In addition to needling your treatment may also include a variety of non-needling techniques such as moxibustion (heat), acupressure, herbal formulas, etc. One advantage of acupuncture treatment is the absence of serious side effects which may result from the use of prescription drugs.

Q.HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?

According to biochemical and neurological research, acupuncture works by activating a natural pain-suppression system in the brain. Acupuncture has the systemic effect of increasing endorphins which leads to pain relief, enhanced energy and vitality as well as strengthening the body’s immune system so that it has the ability to fight disease. Neuroimaging studies show that it seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increase blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside. For more information, please go to Finding Science in Acupuncture—WSJ.com

Q. DO I NEED A REFERRAL FROM MY REGULAR DOCTOR TO SEE AN ACUPUNCTURIST AND WILL MY INSURANCE COVER ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?

A. An acupuncturist is considered a primary care provider and a referral may or may not be required for insurance purposes. Many insurance companies do cover acupuncture treatment. For more information on insurance, please contact either your insurance company or an acupuncture association.

Q. ARE ACUPUNCTURISTS REQUIRED TO USE DISPOSABLE NEEDLES?
A. Yes. It is unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to use a needle more than once. California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Section 1399.454.

Q. DOES CALIFORNIA HAVE RECIPROCITY WITH OTHER STATES?

A. No. The Acupuncture Board does not recognize reciprocity, nor does it accept for licensure those individuals who take and pass the national examination (administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine).

Q. WHAT CONDITIONS DOES ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
A. In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • sciatica
  • tennis elbow
  • knee pain
  • periarthritis of the shoulder
  • sprains
  • facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • headache
  • dental pain
  • tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • induction of labor
  • correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
  • morning sickness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • postoperative pain
  • stroke
  • essential hypertension
  • primary hypotension
  • renal colic
  • leucopenia
  • adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
  • allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
  • biliary colic
  • depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • acute bacillary dysentery
  • primary dysmenorrhea
  • acute epigastralgia
  • peptic ulcer
  • acute and chronic gastritis
  • 2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

    • Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
    • Acne vulgaris
    • Alcohol dependence and detoxification
    • Bell’s palsy
    • Bronchial asthma
    • Cancer pain
    • Cardiac neurosis
    • Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
    • Cholelithiasis
    • Competition stress syndrome
    • Craniocerebral injury, closed
    • Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
    • Earache
    • Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
    • Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
    • Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
    • Female infertility
    • Facial spasm
    • Female urethral syndrome
    • Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
    • Gastrokinetic disturbance
    • Gouty arthritis
    • Hepatitis B virus carrier status
    • Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
    • Hyperlipaemia
    • Hypo-ovarianism
    • Insomnia
    • Labour pain
    • Lactation, deficiency
    • Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
    • Ménière disease
    • Neuralgia, post-herpetic
    • Neurodermatitis
    • Obesity
    • Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Pain due to endoscopic examination
    • Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
    • Postextubation in children
    • Postoperative convalescence
    • Premenstrual syndrome
    • Prostatitis, chronic
    • Pruritus
    • Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
    • Raynaud syndrome, primary
    • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
    • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
    • Retention of urine, traumatic
    • Schizophrenia
    • Sialism, drug-induced
    • Sjögren syndrome
    • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
    • Spine pain, acute
    • Stiff neck
    • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
    • Tietze syndrome
    • Tobacco dependence
    • Tourette syndrome
    • Ulcerative colitis, chronic
    • Urolithiasis
    • Vascular dementia
    • Whooping cough (pertussis)