Acupuncturists use alternative healing therapies to help patients maintain good health, and, when necessary, to treat medical problems. They are part of the largest industry in the U.S. – the healthcare industry.
Acupuncturists work out of an office, either in a practice related solely to acupuncture, or in a practice with other alternative medicine providers, or in their home office. Demand for these services is greatly influenced by the economy, by what people know about acupuncture, and by what insurance companies and individuals will pay for the services. Alternative healthcare is a rapidly growing field – more and more patients, doctors, and health insurance companies are realizing the benefits of such therapies. Regular patients report better overall health, including better circulation and fewer illnesses. Some patients get acupuncture for specific reasons, such as the relief of headaches and back pain.
Acupuncturists generally work normal hours, under safe and clean conditions. Those that own their own practices also have to perform administrative duties and attract new patients. Solo practitioners usually earn more than salaried workers, at least after the practice is well established. They may have to work longer hours, though, to accommodate patients.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice, first developed in China about 3,500 years ago. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the belief that all of the body's systems are interconnected in ways that Western medicine has only begun to recognize. Acupuncturists insert sterilized needles into some of the patient's body's 2,000 acupuncture points to balance the Qi – the life force that keeps the body's systems functioning normally. Acupuncturists must undergo years of training, and in most states they must be licensed (in any case, one should look for a licensed practitioner even if it is not required). Most also take continuing education classes, and many practice other types of traditional Chinese medicine, such as massage, moxibustion, and acupressure.