Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into specific points on the body. This ancient Chinese medical practice stimulates the central nervous system which releases chemicals into various parts of the body. These biochemical changes may promote healing and alleviate pain. Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine. Since this practice falls under the healthcare umbrella, certain regulations must be followed.
In the “Sunshine State” the practice of acupuncture is regulated by the Florida Board of Acupuncture. Anyone performing these procedures must meet certain qualifications and standards. Additionally, they must be certified as a “Licensed Acupuncturist” (L.Ac.). In order to obtain the necessary license, applicants must complete the following steps:
- Graduate from an acupuncture school that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). The program typically consists of at least 3,000 hours of education. This education includes training.
- Candidates must pass the Florida State Board of Acupuncture Examination.
- Candidates must pass a background check.
- After graduation, passing the State Exam, and passing the background check, then an individual may apply for a license to practice in the State of Florida.
Legal Penalties for Practicing Acupuncture without a License
In Florida, acupuncture is considered a form of healthcare. Since this practice requires a license from the state, an unlicensed acupuncturist may face civil and criminal charges. The penalties may include fines, cease-and-desist orders, or injunctions. Of course, if someone is injured by an unlicensed acupuncturist, there may be criminal charges. Some key laws and protections include:
- The Practice Act – The Florida Acupuncture Practice Act outlines the scope of practice for acupuncturists. Additionally, it includes licensure requirements, and establishes the standards of professional conduct for the profession.
- Enforcement – The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Board of Acupuncture have the authority to take disciplinary action against anyone practicing without a license. If your license expires, renew it immediately. Contact an attorney that specializes in healthcare law if you have a problem in this area.
- Complaints and Investigations – The Florida Board of Acupuncturists investigates all complaints. If a complaint is filed against you, or if you wish to file one, contact an experienced attorney immediately.
- Licensing Requirements – Strict licensing requirements protect the practitioner and the patient.
People use an acupuncturist for an alternative healing method. A few reasons individuals choose acupuncture include:
- Pain relief – Folks with chronic pain may try acupuncture to ease their suffering.
- Stress reduction and relaxation – Some patients find the process very relaxing.
- Digestive disorders – Acupuncture may relieve some digestive disorders.
- Managing mental health – This method may reduce anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Risks Associated with Acupuncture
Acupuncture is generally safe when performed by an experienced, licensed practitioner. However, any medical procedure may present risks and human error remains a possibility. In regards to acupuncture, the following potential issues may arise:
- Infection – Any time the skin is broken an infection may occur. However, using properly sterilized needles reduces this concern.
- Nerve damage – Improperly inserted needles may damage a nerve.
- Pneumothorax – A needle inserted too deep into the chest, or upper back may puncture a lung.
- Bleeding – This is a concern for a patient on blood thinners.
- Organ injury – If a needle is inserted too deeply and enters an organ, this may cause serious complications.
Remember, these injuries and others are very rare when the procedure is performed by a licensed person. In fact, according to a review published in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine in 2018, there were 95 cases of serious adverse events related to acupuncture reported in the United States between 2000 and 2011. These cases include five deaths. The review did not list the details surrounding the deaths. So, as in any procedure, there is some risk involved. However, acupuncture is considered a low risk procedure when performed by a licensed provider. Once again, if you have any questions about acupuncture licensing or injuries please contact a healthcare attorney.