Under Australian law it is illegal for anyone to practice under the title of Acupuncturist or Chinese Herbalist unless they are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Ensure your acupuncturist or herbalist is registered before commencing any treatments; this can be done at http://www.AHPRA.gov.au
Why is it important for your practitioner to be registered?
Australia offers Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture as a university degree at several different institutions. These degrees see students undertaking a minimum of four years of studies including hundreds of hours of supervised clinical practice. This ensures that your acupuncturist understands the depth of penetration for every acupuncture point on the body. Incorrect depth on insertion can lead to serious trauma so be very cautious.
Please also keep in mind that many practitioners, especially the older masters, have completed their training in China and have been assessed under the Australian standard in order to practice so it is generally safe to visit them. It is always advisable that you check the AHPRA website (http://www.AHPRA.gov.au) before undertaking any treatment even if the practitioner has qualifications displayed.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is offered by some practitioners from other modalities who have undertaken studies in different forms of physical therapy. A practitioner who performs dry needling does extra training (several weeks) outside of their professional skill set. This training generally covers the insertion of needles into painful areas of the body and does not consider the depth of penetration or interaction with the internal organs as Acupuncture does.
To express it another way, you would not go to an Acupuncturist to have your neck cracked as that is illegal; that is a job for a chiropractor. Cracking the neck takes years of training and involves elements of speed, force and thrust which when done incorrectly can lead to severe trauma. Continuing from this example, acupuncture is about the ability to detect blockages and injuries then performing the procedure with precision, accuracy and intention in order to obtain a therapeutic effect without harming the patient. Both the art of bone manipulation (cracking) and acupuncture take years of training to do safely – be health conscious about which practitioner performs what therapy on you.