The Importance of a Licensed Acupuncturist

Choosing a Chinese Medical physician with appropriate training is essential for getting the results in your health care you are seeking.

Different practitioners such as Medical doctors, Physical therapists, and Chiropractors practicing acupuncture or what some like to refer to as “Dry Needling” most often DO NOT have the same amount of training as a Licensed acupuncturists who is a NCCAOM Nationally Board Certified Diplomat in Either Acupuncture or Orienal Medicine.

Continue reading below and learn why it is important to work with Licensed acupuncturists who have a Master’s Degree or Doctoral Degree in the studies of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and who are NCCAOM Nationally Board Certified Diplomats in either Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine.

Credentials to seek out when looking for a Chinese Medical Physician (aka – “Acupuncturist”):

  • Licensed Acupuncturist (state licensed) (ie: L.Ac)
  • NCCAOM Certified Diplomat in Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM Dipl. O.M. = Certified Diplomat in BOTH Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine) or a NCCAOM Certified Diplomat in Acupuncture (NCCAOM Dipl. Ac. = Certified Diplomat in Acupuncture only).

Below are some Q/As, as well as, some additional, detailed information regarding this Very Important Topic.

What is the difference between a licensed acupuncturist and a doctor or chiropractor who performs acupuncture?

Licensed acupuncturists have completed a minimum of a 4 year full-time academic and clinical study dedicated to learning acupuncture and Chinese Medicine with usually over 3,000 hours in professional and clinical training, earning a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate (additional 2+ years of schooling) in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Most Acupuncture schools require between 3,000-3,500 hours of academic and clinical training before graduation.

Also, Licensed acupuncturists should be NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) certified Diplomats in either Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine (includes certifications in BOTH Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine). To become a certified diplomat in Acupuncture &/or Oriental Medicine, candidates must sit for 5 National Board Examinations and must pass all 5 of the National Board Examinations

which cover:

  1. Chinese Medical Theory and Diagnosis
  2. Acupuncture Point Location
  3. Acupuncture Theory and Skills (ie: Clean Needle Technique; Different therapeutic acupuncture techniques, etc.)
  4. Chinese Herbal Therapy (Chinese herbal Formulas & Single Herbs, Drug-Herb interactions)
  5. Western Biomedicine (Western Diagnosis & Disease Differentiation, Western Pathology, Western Pharmacology, & Anatomy and Physiology).

A Minimum of 2,500 hours of Chinese Medical Education and Supervised Clinical training, plus graduation or pending graduation from an Accredited Acupuncture School is needed to sit for these National Board Examinations. The Colorado State of Regulatory Agencies regulates acupuncture in the state of Colorado. Only those who pass the NCCAOM Exams are awarded the title of “Licensed Acupuncturist” (L.Ac) by the state of Colorado.

The Acupuncture Association of Colorado (AAC) is the Professional Association for NCCAOM Board Certified, Licensed Acupuncturists in the state of Colorado. AAC Members are L.Ac and NCCAOM Diplomats in Oriental Medicine (Certified Diplomat in BOTH Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine) or NCCAOM Diplomats in Acupuncture (Certified Diplomat in Acupuncture only).

There are Different Standards for OTHER PRACTITIONERS Calling Themselves “Acupuncturists” in Colorado**:

Western Medical Doctors, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists who advertise that they practice acupuncture, for the most part, learn the basics of acupuncture via taking elective courses, usually only having a few hundred hours of academic and clinical training under their belts vs the thousands of hours Licensed and Nationally Board Certified Acupuncturists have under their belts.


  • Need only 100 hours of training, review 25 case histories, andNO EXAMINATION to legally “do acupuncture” in Colorado.

Medical Doctors (M.D.’s) & Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.’s):

  • Have NO MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS for Training to “Do Acupuncture” in Colorado. They call themselves “Medical Acupuncturists”. There are classes, however, designed especially for physicians to learn “acupuncture”. These classes usually consist of roughly 350 hours of training.

We always recommend using a licensed acupuncturist who has earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate in Chinese/Oriental Medicine and who is a Nationally Certified Diplomat in Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine, for the best results.