Hello, I am a BSN nursing student. I know these questions get asked a lot of our local Accupunture location here in Chattanooga. For my research paper I am required to find the answers for the following questions. 1. How did you prepare to be a practitioner of accupunture? 2. What do you believe are the major benefits of accupunture to patients? 3. What health-related conditions do you believe respond best to accupunture? 4. Are there any risks to clients resulting from the use of accupunture? Thank you so much!
As you are writing from within the US, I'll answer the questions accordingly. The training requirements, etc. vary from country to country so what I say here about qualifications would only apply within the US and may even vary slightly from state to state.
"1) How did you prepare to be an acupuncturist?"
There are two ways to answer the question - the legal way (i.e. what is required to legally practice acupuncture) and the personal development way (i.e. what is required to fully understand Chinese Medicine and practice it well).
From the legal standpoint a person trying to become a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) will first have an undergraduate degree (in anything, but science or pre-med would be very helpful). If you had an english degree, for example, you will most likely need to take chemistry, biology, a&p and other courses as required by your school either before admission or during the first year. Some schools do not require a full undergraduate degree so long as the base science requirements and a minimum college credit hours are met.
You will then attend an acupuncture graduate school for 3-4 years full-time. You will do clinical rotations your last 1-1.5 years. The whole program is roughly 1800-2500+ hours and costs somewhere between $40-$60k in tuition - with books, living expenses, etc. on top of that. You will graduate with either a Masters of Acupuncture (M.Ac. - no specific herbal training from the school) or a Masters of Oriental Medicine (M.Om. Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine training).
Slightly before or after graduate you will most likely be required (not all states do) to take the national exam from the nccaom.org (our national accreditation agency).
After graduating and passing the national exam (if required) you will then apply for your acupuncture license from the medical board of the state you are considering practicing in (some states may require additional classwork, additional testing, etc. - but most take the nccaom exam and graduation from an accredited acupuncture school). Then you will generally start up a private practice as there are very few paid positions in acupuncture, but that is increasing as adoption grows. A few more basic details on the training question, is answered in a previous comment of mine.
On the personal development note, acupuncture is a skill that is honed over many years and the schooling is only the start. Ideally, you also work on yourself with techniques such as meditation, tai chi and deeper readings into the theory of Chinese Medicine. It is also highly recommended, as with most medical specialities, to spend many years with very experienced practitioners after you base schooling. Doing these things and spending a lifetime continuing to learn will lead to a much more successful responses from acupuncture.
"2) What Do You Believe Are the Major Benefits..."
You may want to read an article I wrote, "What Does Acupuncture Treat?" which discusses the ideas inherent in Chinese Medicine about resolving problems as opposed to managing symptoms. While Chinese Medicine can be used to treat any number of conditions from pain related to very serious health problems, it's focus at all times in a resolution of these problems not in continuous management. Sometimes this can happen, sometimes it cannot, but it's nice to have that as a focus. Along those lines, because of the systemic nature of acupuncture and it's underlying diagnostic system multiple symptoms are essentially grouped together as common causal factors (what we call diagnostic patterns) which by default allows you to treat many conditions at once instead of trying to treat multiple health problems as individual problems using multiple medications for example.
"3) Which Conditions Respond Best..."
Essentially any condition can be treated with Chinese Medicine, some might be faster or more productively treated with western medicine, some with a combination and some Chinese Medicine is far superior. The most commonly treated conditions can be found here. Each clinic/practitioner may have a different experience and different conditions that they see more of either through chance or speciality advertising, but most see quite a range and most are at least helped. Most practitioners will see lots of pain related conditions (of any origin), psychological issues are quite commonly treated, allergies, asthma and related issues are common and fertility issues are quite commonly treated in both men and women. All of those generally speaking do well.
"4) Are There Any Risks...."
Acupuncture is extremely safe and anything beyond very mild complications is very, very rare. This is even more so when the acupuncture is performed by a properly trained and licensed acupuncturist. There are occasional healing type reactions where people may have an increase in symptoms until they begin to improve. Mild hematoma's are possible, but fairly rare and generally inconsequential if they happen at all. Beyond that there are very rare cases of pneumothorax (lung puncture), but these are extremely, extremely rare from trained professionals and even more so in western countries in general - somewhat more common, but still rare in other health professionals that also "do acupuncture" and/or in practitioners in asian countries where more aggressive needling techniques (i.e. largely deeper) are more common.