What is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?

hands needling forearm  


Acupuncture is a unique system of techniques that treats illness and improves health by stimulating prescribed points on the body. Acupuncture and related techniques redirect the flow of "qi" (or energy) throughout the body to restore balance.

Practiced for more than 2,000 years, acupuncture is one of the safest and most well-researched forms of complementary and alternative therapies in the world.

At Northwestern, acupuncture is taught by expertly trained practitioners with extensive clinical experience, a standard for accredited Traditional Chinese Medicine colleges.

Acupuncturists use multiple techniques:

  • Traditional acupuncture - ultra-fine needles inserted into specific points along defined pathways (meridians)
  • Therapeutic application of heat (moxibustion)
  • Vacuum pressure (cupping)
  • Electrical current (electroacupuncture)
  • Chinese massage (tui na)
  • Chinese exercise system (tai ji)

These and other techniques are taught in both our Master of Acupuncture and Master of Oriental Medicine degree programs.

student in herbal dispensary    

Oriental Medicine

Oriental Medicine (also called Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, or Chinese herbal medicine) is a rich, complex system that identifies the pattern of disharmony in each patient and then builds a unique, individualized treatment plan. In addition to acupuncture techniques, Oriental Medicine practitioners use Chinese herbs, hundreds of substances and thousands of formulas to address health concerns.

Our Master of Oriental Medicine students gain proficiency in this system of Chinese herbal medicine, in addition to learning acupuncture techniques.

Qi - the basis of acupuncture and Oriental medicine

Chinese medical philosophy holds that all life is sustained by the constant flow of an energy called “qi” (pronounced “chee”). The qi of the body is connected to the qi of nature - illness occurs when the two are out of harmony. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine restore health by strengthening the body’s qi and enhancing its flow.

Chinese medical knowledge has been shaped by the experiences of thousands of practitioners over many centuries. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine continue to evolve as practitioners and faculty members at Traditional Chinese Medicine colleges accumulate new experiences in the modern world.

Join a growing profession

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are becoming increasing popular as an alternative to traditional Western medicine for many conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists 41 conditions that acupuncture may alleviate, including allergies, asthma, digestive disorders, respiratory ailments and pain conditions.

According to the AOM Alliance, the number of licensed acupuncturists has tripled in the past decade due to this increased demand. Northwestern and other Traditional Chinese Medicine colleges have also responded to this demand by developing high quality, master's level programs to meet the needs of today's healthcare consumers. 

An increasing body of scientific research supports the effectiveness of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and is playing a critical role in its acceptance, expansion and development. There is also a trend toward the use of acupuncture to relieve the swelling and pain of joint injuries in athletes

This acknowledgement of the effectiveness of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has opened up career opportunities in a rich variety of practice settings.

National certification

We encourage our graduates to obtain national certification through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Learn more 

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