Regulation in Canada


Acupuncture performed within the practice of regulated healthcare professions:
Acupuncture can be used safely and effectively by appropriately trained health professionals as an adjunct to the other techniques and treatments that are within their scopes of practice. These practitioners are not called acupuncturists but rather use acupuncture as a tool, sometimes choosing acupuncture points based on their knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology, combined with their acupuncture training. In provinces where there is regulation of acupuncture, there may be legal protection of the title ‘acupuncturist’ and no one but those who have been licensed by the acupuncturists’ regulatory body is allowed to use that designation.

An analogy for this is the fact that in some provinces health professionals other than chiropractors are legally licensed to use manipulation within their professional practices but they cannot call themselves a ‘chiropractor’, which is a protected title.

In most Canadian provinces, but not yet all, health care practitioners require extra training beyond their basic professional training to perform acupuncture. The standard for training is set by the regulatory bodies for each profession, but in many provinces there are still no standards. Where there are standards, the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute certificate or the Certificate in Medical Acupuncture from the Department of Extension at the University of Alberta in Edmonton is accepted.

In Canada, regulatory bodies (referred to as ‘licensing boards’ in the USA) are called ‘colleges’ in all provinces except Québec, where the term is ’l’ordre’, or ‘the order’. This can be confusing, since the term ‘college’ usually refers to an educational institution.

Physicians and other regulated health care practitioners are permitted to include acupuncture as part of their scopes of practice in some Canadian provinces.

Medical doctors and dentists can use acupuncture in all provinces and territories, including those that do not have specific legislation for the use of acupuncture, but in several they are required to have specific training.

Québec requires physicians to have 300 hours of training to use acupuncture in their practices but restricts chiropractors, nurses and physiotherapists from using it.

Physiotherapists can use acupuncture in their practices in all provinces except Québec, where they are restricted by legislation to performing ‘dry needling’ such as Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). Some provincial regulatory bodies have set standards of training for physios while others have not.

Chiropractors are permitted to use acupuncture within their practices in all provinces except British Columbia and Québec. Standards have been set in Alberta and Manitoba and are pending in Ontario. In British Columbia the restriction on chiropractors using acupuncture comes from their own regulatory body.

Registered Nurses can use acupuncture within their practice of nursing in some provinces, but not in Québec.

Naturopathic Doctors are regulated in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. They are licensed to use acupuncture within their scopes of practice in regulated provinces.

For more information it is advised that you check with the Ministry of Health in your province for rules and regulations regarding acupuncture and visit the website of the provincial professional college for the health care provider you prefer to consult. Link to Regulatory Bodies

Traditional Acupuncture as a Profession:
The practice of traditional acupuncture as a profession is currently regulated in three Canadian provinces and pending in Ontario.

In British Columbia acupuncture is regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia (CTCMA) Licensed acupuncturists have the designation Registered Acupuncturist, RAc. In British Columbia all of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is regulated, not just acupuncture, which is one component of TCM. British Columbia is the only province where TCM is currently regulated. The CTCMA is a self-regulating body, meaning that the members of the profession elect representatives to the council which governs the college. The government is not in charge of the running of the college.

Alberta regulates acupuncture through Alberta Health and Wellness, the provincial health ministry. This is a form of government regulation, since the government appoints those who regulate acupuncture. The the legal term to describe licensed practitioners in the legislation is ‘acupuncturist’ and the designation used is RAc.

Quebec regulation is through l’ordre des acupuncteurs du Québec whose members have the designation acupuncteur. This is a self-regulating body like the one in British Columbia, but they do not regulate herbs and other components of TCM.

Ontario: The passing of Bill 50 by the Ontario legislature in December of 2006 launched the establishment of a new College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO). A Transitional Council is being set up. Training requirements and other details will be established as soon as it is functional, which could take up to two years.

Other Provinces: In non-regulated Canadian provinces anyone with any level of training can practise traditional acupuncture and TCM. Because of the absence of regulation in these jurisdictions, there is no protection of the title “acupuncturist” and it is the responsibility of consumers to inform themselves of the practitioner’s level of training.


Acupuncture is regulated in most American states. Before being licensed, practitioners must be certified in acupuncture and what they refer to as ‘oriental medicine’, terminology that recognizes the Japanese and Korean traditions as well as the Chinese. The certification body for Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in the USA is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) . Their website is a good resource for learning which states regulate acupuncture.

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) established the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA) in 2000. The ABMA is a professional body whose mission is to promote safe, ethical, efficacious medical acupuncture to the public by maintaining high standards for the examination and certification of physician acupuncturists as medical specialists.

The rules in the USA vary state by state with respect to which professions can use acupuncture.


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