Acupuncture Fact Sheet

Acupuncture is an integral part of Chinese medicine which also includes herbal medicine, moxibustion, tui na (massage), cupping, qi gong (meditation and breath work with or without movements), tai chi (practices that involve body movements with breathing and mental focus),  guasha (scraping),  and dietary therapy.

Chinese medicine is an ancient indigenous medicine of China with a very long history that has evolved over at least 5000 years of practice.  It is underpinned by Daoist philosophy and Chinese medical theory based on centuries of empirical research and observation.  Preventative and holistic in nature it treats disease by understanding the individual person physically, physiologically, emotionally and spiritually.  

In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed 27 diseases, symptoms and conditions for which acupuncture had been proved through control trials to be an effective treatment (WHO 2003. Acupuncture: Review And Analysis Of Reports On Controlled Clinical Trials).

WHO lists a further  63 health conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture had been shown and further proof was required; nine conditions with only individual controlled trials that reported some therapeutic effects, and for which acupuncture was considered worthwhile because conventional therapeutic treatments were difficult and unsuccessful; and six potentially life threatening conditions for which acupuncture could be given by a practitioner with specialist medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment.  A 2013 WHO report reported acupuncture to be the fastest growing CAM modality worldwide (WHO 2013. Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023. Geneva, Switzerland). The Acupuncture Evidence Project (AEP) is a recent landmark study that includes very comprehensive reviews of research on acupuncture for 123 medical conditions (

In 2013 according to reports supplied by 129 WHO Member States, including New Zealand, 103 Member States (80%) now recognize acupuncture usage; 29 have regulations for providers; 18 provide health insurance coverage; 39 (30%) provide high level quality education programmes including Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees at University level; and 73% now have a National Research Institute, including those in herbal medicine.

Acupuncture is the best known and most widely used modality of Chinese medicine in New Zealand and is considered a complementary and alternative therapy (CAM) by the Ministry of Health.  Acupuncture is now the third preferred CAM therapy in New Zealand (Ref: Ministry of Health. 2008. A Portrait of Health. Key Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health).

Currently the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) recognises close to 1200 (non-medical) qualified acupuncturists as treatment providers, eligible to receive payments from the Corporation for acupuncture treatments provided to the public following injury or accident.

At present the only statutory regulation of acupuncture in New Zealand is through the ACC Act. That Act clearly identifies two voluntary regulatory bodies that register competent acupuncturists: the New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Inc (NZASA), modelled on the Health Practitioners Competency assurance Act 2003 and Acupuncture New Zealand Inc.  Registrants of both organisations must fulfil the statutory obligations and educational requirements set out in legislation and once registered can apply to become ACC treatment providers. The Chinese medicine profession is currently in the process of national regulation under the HPCA Act 2003, managed by Health Workforce New Zealand.

November 2017