Acupuncture is a specialist area of complementary and alternative medicine, drawing its origins from the Chinese philosophy of Qi.
Acupuncture focuses on manipulating and maintaining the balance of ‘life energy’ or ‘life spirit’ in the body with the insertion of needles into various acupuncture points. The positioning of these needles is dependent on the type of illness or health condition that needs to be treated.
The accurate application of acupuncture is used to treat a variety of emotional, mental and physical disorders or to maintain general wellbeing and good health. Acupuncturists conduct a detailed diagnosis and collect data on a patient’s lifestyle, diet, health history and symptoms before developing a bespoke treatment plan.
Acupuncture treatment is administered over varied periods of time, ranging from one month to a year or more, depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s reaction to treatment.
Common ailments and disorders which can be treated with acupuncture are allergies and respiratory, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, gastrointestinal and gynaecological disorders. It may also be used to deal with obesity, high blood pressure and eating disorders.
Some acupuncture specialists may also offer similar treatments, such as acupressure, Tui Na, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, Japanese-style acupuncture, Korean hand acupuncture and auricular acupuncture.
Salary & benefits
Acupuncturists usually charge an hourly rate or take payment on a session-by-session basis, with typical rates starting at £40 per hour and increasing up to £100 or more.
Income during the first five years is quite low and most acupuncturists take up other part-time work to supplement their income. However, with increased levels of experience, acupuncturists can charge higher rates and develop a dedicated client base.
Acupuncturists are mainly self-employed, running their own clinic or handling a roster of clients. Others may work in multi-disciplinary health centres that focus on different types of alternative and complementary therapies, such as Ayurveda and aromatherapy.
Working hours are dependent on the availability and schedules of clients, but essentially it’s up to acupuncturists to take up as many consultations as they want. Travelling to patients’ homes is a common feature.
Acupuncturists are also employed by large companies with a dedicated programme of employee health and well-being. In such cases, the hours are more regular, with little or no work during weekends and holiday periods.
There are no compulsory academic requirements for entry into this line of work and the profession is currently regulated on a voluntary basis. The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) are the two professional bodies that presently set training and qualification requirements.
At a bare minimum, it’s essential that you do a three-year course in acupuncture to be eligible for professional membership.
Training & progression
Specialist knowledge and training in areas of advanced acupuncture, herbal medicine and other alternative forms of therapy are helpful for career progression once you have completed your basic training and qualifications.
Specific medical fields where acupuncturists can build their practice include:
- Pain management and palliative care
- HIV treatment
An alternative career path can be academic teaching and research. Moreover, you could even establish an overseas practice.