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Once thought of as voodoo medicine, acupuncture is becoming one of the more mainstream of alternative medicines. An acupuncturist uses acupressure - by using needles - to locate pressure points in the body that may be causing discomfort or pain. Acupuncture is used in a wide range of medical health issues including prevention of pain and disease, internal medicine, chronic pain and headaches, and rehabilitation. An acupuncturist diagnosis the problem by questioning the patient and making observations of the left and right radial pulses, and analyzes the color and coating of the tongue. The points to where the needles or pressure is applied are thought to release "Qi," or positive energy flow in the body.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Oriental medicine that is at least 5,000 years old, which used mainly in China, although there is evidence it was used in ancient Egypt as well. The first book on acupuncture was recorded in 200 B.C. Today, in China, there are over 230,000 acupuncturists practicing traditional Chinese medicine. In the United States, there are now over 10,000 licensed acupuncturists who have graduated from an accredited acupuncturist program.

How to Become an Acupuncturist

There are approximately 50 accredited acupuncture schools, or ones waiting for accreditation. As with most medical careers, you should have a high aptitude for mathematics and science, as anatomy and physiology and biology will be some of your core requirements. Additionally, you will be studying Oriental medicine, it's history and application; point location classes; biomedical concepts and Western medicine theory; food, diet and vitamins; herbology; tai chi; and biomedical toxicology. The programs at each acupuncture school vary, but can take up to 3-4 years. Some schools allow some classes to be taken online.

You will be expected to complete internships and take the state and national licensure exam at the end of your studies. At least 40 States and the District of Columbia use an exam administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Most schools for acupuncture do require that you have at least a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university before admitting you to the program in their acupuncture school. Most acupuncture schools have financial aid available for those who qualify.

You've Graduated as an Acupuncturist, Now What?

You're doors are literally wide open for you. Most insurance programs now recognize acupuncture and pay for some treatments administered by acupuncturists. In California, a recent survey indicated that more than 50 percent of medical doctors recommend that their patients also see an acupuncturist. Those starting out as an acupuncturist can earn over $40,000 per year, while more experienced acupuncturists can earn in excess of $120,000 per year.

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