Are you looking for good acupuncture in Austin but you don’t know where to start? There are many good practitioners, but did you know that not everyone has the same focus and type of training? We would like to help demystify the various credentials one commonly sees listed for acupuncturists in Austin, so you know which type of practice is right for you.


In many states, including Texas, with additional specialized training (usually about 100 hours) certain health care practitioners (chiropractors, physical therapists, nurses, and physicians) can add acupuncture to their scope of practice to their original licenses. This is often referred to as “dry needling” (as opposed to needles for drawing blood). It is also referred to as medical acupuncture. Even though it is a modernly derived technique, it bares a striking resemblance to “fen ci” or divide needling, one of the nine needle techniques described in the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Medicine classic (Huang Di Nei Jing), compiled during the Warring States period, 2,200 years ago. It is a very effective technique in alleviating musculoskeletal complaints. It is based primarily on the understanding of anatomy of muscle and attachments to tendons and bones, which is something that any chiropractor, physical therapist, or physician knows quite well. And these health care professionals utilize this practice to great effect when managing their patients’ pain symptoms. It is perfectly suited for medical practices built around treating these complaints.


The letters “LAc” stand for licensed acupuncturist. If these letters appear behind the practioner’s name, this means that they been licensed by their state to practice Chinese medicine as their primary health care license. But this further signifies they have obtained a masters degree from a full Chinese medical program and took additional exams to become board certified in Oriental medicine. Both of these are requirement to be granted an LAc, regardless of any degrees and licensure otherwise. This board certification is conferred by the National Certification Council of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The requirements for their board certification include 2625 hours in didactic courses and clinical treatment rotations. Practitioners with LAc’s can offer a lot more than dry needling/medical acupuncture. Licensed acupuncturists have learned the full Chinese diagnostic system and the complete meridian system, where all the points are, and what they do according to the Chinese medical system. They also have the full range of traditional Chinese medicine techniques at their disposal. These include cupping, gua sha, which scraping or rubbing the tissue with a firm too to stimulate blood flow, and moxibustion, which is using the warmth and combusted oils of specially prepared herbs. This segues into another benefit of a heath care practitioner with an LAc over a practitioner of dry needling. And that is the knowledgeable use Chinese herbalism and its wide range of use, a very large topic of discussion on its own.


An increasingly common thing to see are those who have obtained a doctorate in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. And as more Western schools offer these doctorate degrees, more practitioners will have them. Obtaining this degree entails an additional one to two years of lectures and clinic rotations beyond the four years to reach the requirements to get an masters degree. These lectures and clinics will delve deeper into specialized topics. Many of these doctoral programs have a research component too, training the next generation to bring a greater objective modern Western scientific understanding to traditional Chinese medicine. One reason why there are not a lot of strong studies supporting the effective clinical use of acupuncture and Chinese herbalism is that it is relatively new to Western scientific study. We firmly believe that as time goes on, these studies will be done to fill in the gaps. A large amount of this research will come from the individuals with this extra training. You will recognize these practitioners by the letters DAcM, DAOM, or a similar combination behind their names.


Currently there are not a lot of practitioners with both a Western allopathic medical doctorate and a full LAc. A physician with both and MD and an LAc, then, will be fully trained in both Western and Eastern systems of medicine. In the United States currently, most practitioners that fall under this category received their Eastern and Western medical training in China before coming to the United States. Cities with traditional Chinese medicine schools, like AOMA in Austin, tend to have many of these practitioners as they serve as the faculty of these schools. Much less commonly seen are physicians who have received their training from a medical school and residency program in the United States who then went on to obtain the additional Eastern medical training as detailed above.


At every level described, acupuncture has its intended purpose and effective use to optimize your health. A physical therapist who wants to alleviate musculoskeletal pain may not need more than the dry needling technique. However, the more extensive medical training a health care practitioner has, naturally, the more fully they can use it to address your various health care needs. Someone with the dual training of an MD and LAc will be the best equipped to understand those needs from both perspectives. They can understand how to think of your Western diagnoses in the Eastern system. They will know what your laboratory values mean, and how and what your Western medication is doing. They can astutely know which approach is more suitable for your health care, who to refer you to, and how to coordinate approaches from both sides into one linked all-encompassing strategy. This is our practice philosophy at Yi Guan Acupuncture and Chinese Herbalism. Why choose East over West, old over new, if you don’t have to? A blended mix of the best treatment options across all available is optimal.

If you would like to learn more about our Austin acupuncture clinic, contact us today to book an appointment.

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Dr. Dan Perez is both a Western-trained physician and a graduate of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Based in Austin, Texas, AOMA is recognized as one of the leading schools in Chinese Medicine. Being both an expert in Western medicine and Chinese medicine, Dr. Perez offers his patients natural, minimally invasive and integrative medical options for treating a variety of chronic medical conditions. If you would like to know more about how Dr. Perez can help with your health and well being, contact him today. You can contact Dr. Perez at his office, located just off of Bee Cave Road in northwest Austin (near Lakeway), for more information or to book an appointment.