Check practitioners’ licenses and know what they can—and can’t—do
There are more than 12,000 licensed acupuncturists in California. But whether you’re visiting one of these professionals for the first time or just booking your next appointment, the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Acupuncture Board reminds consumers to be familiar with what acupuncture practitioners can—and can’t—do. Here are seven common consumer questions plus answers from the Board:
- Who can perform acupuncture? Acupuncturists who maintain a valid license issued by the Acupuncture Board and physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California can perform acupuncture. A dentist or podiatrist licensed in California may also practice acupuncture, but only within the scope of their respective licenses and if they have completed the necessary training required by their respective licensing board.
- What is an acupuncturist allowed to do? An acupuncturist is allowed to engage in the practice of acupuncture and electroacupuncture, and to perform or prescribe the use of 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.
- What can I expect? Needles are sterile and generally cause no bleeding upon entry or removal, with little or no pain being felt; however, slight bruising may be experienced. The number of treatments necessary will depend on your condition, if your symptoms are chronic or acute, and your health in general. The needles may vary in size, depending on 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.
- Can an acupuncturist call themselves a doctor? It is unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to use the title “doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” in connection with the practice of acupuncture unless he or she possesses a license or certificate that authorizes such use or possesses an earned doctorate degree from an accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The use of the title “doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” by an acupuncturist as authorized above without further indicating the type of license, certificate, or degree that authorizes such use constitutes unprofessional conduct.
- Are acupuncturists required to use disposable needles? Acupuncturists are required to use sterile, single-use needles. It is unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to use a needle more than once.
- Can an acupuncturist give injections of any kind? No—never. Acupuncturists can’t give injections and can’t perform acupuncture with a hypodermic needle.
- I read an advertisement where an acupuncturist claims the ability to cure my disease. Is this legal? No, it is improper for an acupuncturist to disseminate any advertising that represents in any manner that they can cure any type of disease, condition, or symptom. Acupuncturists can advertise that they can treat disease, conditions, and symptoms.
And one more thing: For your health, safety, and peace of mind, be sure to check the status of the acupuncturist’s license. Check an acupuncture or medical professional’s license online anytime at https://search.dca.ca.gov, or call DCA’s Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Related Reading: Acupuncture: A Holistic Approach to Medicine