Practitioners of Chinese medicine train for approximately 4 years in medical school, just like medical doctors. The difference is that we spend 75% to 80% of our time training in the theories and practice of Chinese medicine, including extensive clinical internships and externships. The remainder of our training is in western medicine and sciences. Cognizant of the fact that we live in a world dominated by western science, the practitioner of Chinese medicine must be knowledgeable of western medicine.
During our time in medical school, we spend over 3,000 hours studying acupuncture (channels, acupoints, clinical techniques and applications), Chinese medical theories, physiology and pathophysiology, herbal medicines (including herb combinations, synergies, and formulations), classical Chinese medicine, and treating patients under the guidance of supervising acupuncturists and herbalists. Not to mention that many practitioners, like myself, have extensive post-graduate training with senior practitioners and masters in the field.
So, what training do MDs have in acupuncture? None. The one's who will advertise as "medical acupuncturists" have trained for approximately 200 hours, typically a weekend course and some "homework." This is the standard recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) so that doctors know when to refer out to fully-trained acupuncturists. MDs, osteopaths, naturopaths and chiropractors only have this limited training. They are not practicing Chinese medicine, just using needles. Sticking needles in someone without knowledge of the underlying theories of Chinese medicine is not practicing acupuncture and is not recommended by this practitioner.
Acupuncture is strong medicine with the power to bring awareness of our imbalances to the body and mind and help correct them. Despite what you hear from an MD, its influence extends far beyond neural pathways and the release of endorphins. Improper training in and use of this sacred healing art is an affront to every skilled practitioner and to the majesty of Chinese medicine.
A strong foundation in the principles of Chinese medicine is prerequisite to being a good acupuncturist. But it is only the beginning. The simple act of inserting a needle requires significant cultivation on the part of the practitioner to feel for the arrival of Qi under the needle. According to Yanagiya Sorei and Shudo Denmei, two famous Japanese master acupuncturists, forcing an acupuncture needle into the skin of a patient is akin to rape. In 1980 Master Yanagiya stated:
Acupuncture is of the mind. This should be considered very carefully. One needle can be used to unlock the key to all manner of diseases. It is only natural, therefore, that one's technique needs to be perfected.
Which kind of acupuncturist will you go see?