Profile of acupuncture use among primary care physicians working in the Brazilian public healthcare system

Acupunct Med. 2020 Oct;38(5):319-326. doi: 10.1177/0964528420912250. Epub 2020 Jun 15.


Background: An introductory acupuncture course has been offered to primary health care physicians and family medicine residents in southern Brazil since 2011.

Objective: To analyze the profile of acupuncture utilization of primary care physicians who completed an introductory course of acupuncture between 2011 and 2018.

Method: A survey using an electronic questionnaire was sent to all 119 physicians who completed the course.

Results: Fifty-five physicians answered the questionnaire. The majority of them reported continuation of the practice of acupuncture in scheduled appointments and on spontaneous demand. The most commonly used principles of point selection were traditional acupuncture point function, myofascial trigger point needling and point protocols. As barriers to the practice of acupuncture, time limitation and inadequate physical space were predominant. The participants described the problem-solving potential of the procedure and good patient acceptance as facilitators. The most common problems treated with acupuncture were musculoskeletal pain, and mood and anxiety disorders. A reduction in referrals to specialists and reduced prescription of pain medications were also reported. Most physicians answered that they often combined acupuncture with other medications or associated acupuncture with other complementary practices. The main adverse events reported by the participants were vascular trauma and fainting.

Conclusion: Most primary care physicians who completed the introductory course and answered the survey still used acupuncture in their routine, primarily for the management of musculoskeletal conditions and mental health conditions. These physicians reported reductions in specialist referrals and prescription of pain medication after integrating basic acupuncture skills into primary care practice.

Keywords: acupuncture; complementary and alternative medicine; integrative medicine; medical education; primary health care; traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture / education
  • Acupuncture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / education
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult