Acupuncture studies are rooted in the principles of Oriental medicine. Coursework typically includes the following: Qigong (breathing exercises), dietetics, history of acupuncture, acupressure, clinical herbology, Tuina (massage), anatomy & physiology, biology, massage therapy, psychology, and other sciences. Two key tenets of Oriental medicine that will likely compose a great majority of acupuncture studies are that of circulation and balance of energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"). Students will also learn the importance of questioning and palpation (a method of examination that uses gentle pressure with the fingers to detect abnormal growth or atypical reactions to pressure), along with close observations of the patient to better diagnose the issues and recommend appropriate courses of treatment. All of this is underscored by the general belief that, in the human body, everything is connected.
While there is not always a quick fix when seeking acupuncture treatments, the hope is that fewer treatments will be needed as time goes on; the patient will eventually return to good health, or maintain that optimal level of health, as attained when the body is in proper balance.
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Acupuncture focuses on the root causes of chronic health conditions, such as migraine headaches, by studying the flow of energy in a patient's body. Mental and emotional wellness is also considered as part of the well-rounded evaluation process; acupuncture treatments focus on the entire person's system and can arrive at treatments in a number of ways, via acupressure, heat therapy, or cupping techniques, to name a few. Trained acupuncturists believe that everything in the body is connected; therefore, a strategically placed acupuncture needle in a patient's foot could impact the functionality of the patient's liver.
Just as each patient and his health needs are unique, each acupuncture school will have its own curriculum and course offerings, although there are common threads. If you have a specific interest in techniques such as cupping (suction) or gua sha (scraping), seek out a school that offers such courses.
After you've completed acupuncture studies and taken the necessary certification exams for licensing, a variety of opportunities and settings are available to those seeking to help people find their qi. Many acupuncturists are self-employed. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer earnings data for acupuncturists but the American Association of Oriental Medicine suggests that, depending on treatment costs for their location, most acupuncturists may charge $40 to $70 a session. Those acupuncturists who do not seek self-employment may find work in Oriental medicine centers or perhaps in tandem with chiropractors in the area. Regardless of what setting you ultimately choose, you can rest assured that your services will be in high demand!