Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program

Neurofunctional Treatment of Pain with Movement Disorders

McMaster University Contemporary Medical Acupuncture for Health Professionals Program

By Dr. Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco
August 1, 2009

Dr. Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco MD (Spain), Director McMaster University Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program
Chris O´Connor, RMT, Instructor McMaster CMA Program

In recent years, the McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture for Health Professionals (CMA) Program has become an increasingly popular choice for RMTs in Ontario seeking acupuncture training. In July, 2000 the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) granted its members the right to perform acupuncture during massage treatments. Because acupuncture can be expected to benefit the soft tissues and joints of the body, it is accordingly considered an effective manipulation that falls within the guidelines of the Massage Therapy Act.

Acupuncture Training for RMTs in Ontario
To date, the CMTO has not published specific educational requirements for RMTs in Ontario wishing to integrate acupuncture into their practices. The College does require that prospective acupuncture training programs submit their full curriculum for review in order to establish that they fall within the standards of practice for the profession. A list of the approved acupuncture education programs can be found on the CMTO website, at in the Standards and Regulations/Policies section.

Course Description
The McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture for Health Professionals Program is an accelerated training program that consists of five weekend-units with Spring or Fall intake sessions. Upon completion, McMaster University’s CME department issues a certificate granting graduates 300 CME hours reflecting 126 contact hours and 174 hours of self-directed assignments.

Workshops constitute more than 70% of the contact time of the CMA program, and include: anatomy laboratory, problem-solving sessions, case management, point location, needling skills, and live case-study treatments.

The CMA program encourages the careful consideration of treatment principles over the memorization of specific protocols or treatment recipes. The course inspires confidence and competence by fostering a strong awareness of functional neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Along with preparation for designing effective and safe acupuncture treatments for musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction, health professionals completing the clinically oriented program will understand acupuncture’s role in the management of systemic problems including fatigue, anxiety and poor digestion.

Curriculum Summary
Unit 1
The program starts with a comprehensive review of the neurophysiology of acupuncture and continues with the introduction of the original Contemporary Acupuncture ‘modular’ treatment approach. This is the foundation that allows clinicians with a good understanding of the neurophysiology, pathophysiology, and structural anatomy of a condition to integrate an acupuncture intervention into its management.

This Unit includes a review of current research in acupuncture, and a continually updated review of the literature regarding potential complications associated with acupuncture treatment. The first needling workshops and anatomy lab sessions also take place during this three day weekend.

Unit 2
The focus of this Unit is on the treatment of acute pain and upper extremity problems by integrating knowledge of functional neuroanatomy and pathophysiology of the locomotor system. Specific protocols and strategies for the treatment of common conditions of the joints and muscles of the upper extremity are studied in detail.

Unit 3
The focus of this Unit is on the treatment of pain of vertebral origin, including such common complaints as neck and low back pain. It also introduces participants to the integration of electro-acupuncture for the treatment of common states of dis-regulation.

Unit 4
The focus of this Unit is on the treatment of common chronic conditions such as myofascial pain, headaches, and chronic pain syndrome. Special techniques and protocols for the treatment of these conditions are studied.

Unit 5
Treatments for common conditions of the hip, knee, and ankle joints and soft tissue problems of the lower extremity are studied in detail in this Unit. Additional inputs and strategies for systemic regulation are also reviewed.

A practical point location and anatomy oral exam takes place at the anatomy laboratory during Unit 4. A clinical practicum with real patients takes place during Unit 5. Students are directed through a full evaluation and treatment of two patients in small groups of four. The results of these two exams are evaluated together with the results of four written exams from units 2-5, plus the homework portion. The overall evaluation determines the adequacy of the candidate to receive the final certificate of completion.

Since 1999, more than 800 health professionals have graduated from the McMaster CMA Program, including over 100 RMTs.
RMT graduates of the McMaster CMA program have commented in testimonials that they greatly appreciated the practical and clinical aspects of their acupuncture training. Many also noted that the strong foundation in neurophysiology and neuroanatomy that they had acquired by the end of the program has been vital to the successful incorporation of acupuncture into their massage practice.

Students have also appreciated the multidisciplinary collegiate environment at McMaster University and the opportunity to work with other health professionals including physicians, chiropractors, physiotherapists, naturopathic doctors, athletic therapists, and nurses. Graduates are encouraged to carry this multidisciplinary co-operation into practice.

The practice of peripheral nerve stimulation with acupuncture needles can be a valuable skill for health care professionals including RMTs to add to their complementary therapies. Due to its invasive nature and potential to damage internal viscera, it should only be practiced by well trained professionals with a very precise knowledge of anatomy and neurophysiology. The McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture for Health Professionals Program provides a comprehensive modular approach to the development of competence in acupuncture. The program promises a balanced approach to acupuncture education that includes a firm foundation in theory carried through to the practical application of treatment.