Acupuncture in Slovakia

Boris Ivanič

(Agelclinic, Jelačičova 8, Bratislava. Anesthetist, TCM, Children health,lecturer, 2017 IATC participant)

The Past and the Present 

The current acupuncture practice in Slovakia (since 1993) and in the former Czechoslovakia (1957-1992) follows on from the long-lasting enthusiastic effort of medical practitioners. One of the first acupuncturists in the former Czechoslovakia was Professor Eduard Cmunt, MD, a rheumatologist and balneologist who successfully applied acupuncture to treat rheumatoid diseases and lumbar ischialgia in the Piešťany thermal spa. In the period of 1957-59, Evžen Karský, MD used acupuncture in the spa town of Karlovy Vary and other two pioneers, Jozef Vymazal, MD and Milan Tuháček, MD participated in an educational stay in China. Richard Umlauf, MD learnt to treat with acupuncture as a young army doctor in Korea and later on, he  founded the first specialized acupuncture centre in the Army Hospital in Ružomberok. The most well-known among the early acupuncturists in Slovakia is Teodor Rosinský, MD who started his practice in 1958 and was joined by Jozef Šmirala, MD, PhD (1960), Alojz Rosina, MD (1960), Ondrej Bangha, MD (1965), Milan Môcik, MD (1965), Vladimír Balogh, MD (1970). All of these medical practitioners studied acupuncture in China. The years 1960 and 1961 were important milestones in the development of acupuncture, since it was implemented in practice at several clinics. Also the research of its clinical effects and mechanisms dates from this period. Some of the research papers dealing with asthma or low back pain were published in international periodicals. Since 1963, the acupuncture specialists have been gathering at various events, expert meetings and congresses that take place alternately in Czech Republic and in Slovakia. In 1979, acupuncture was registered at the Slovak Medical Association and the Ministry of Health issued the regulation 20/1979 The Regulation of the Practice of Acupuncture. This regulation provided for the postgraduate training of medical practitioners and creation of specialized acupuncture clinics.

On 1stJanuary 1993, the independent Slovak Republic was established after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. This was also the year when acupuncture was granted an equal position to other medical specializations and the Ministry of Health issued the first Guidelines for Acupuncture as a separate medical specialization. This document was amended in 2006 and updated in 2017. Alena Ondrejkovičová, MD, PhD currently acts as the chief advisor to the Ministry of Health for acupuncture. The acupuncture treatment was covered by general health insurance between 1994 and 2000, but recently the coverage has been restricted to the treatment performed by a doctor of medicine with specialization in acupuncture. 

In 1997, the Sub-department of Acupuncture was created at the Department of Physiatrics, Balneology and Medical Rehabilitation of Slovak Medical University (SMU) under the guidance of Ondrej Bangha, MD and later it transformed into the Department of Acupuncture. The Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine was established in 2010 by Vladimír Balogh, MD. Later on, several training centres were created and accredited by the Faculty of Medicine of the SMU. Acupuncture was accredited as a medical specialization in 2012 and re-accredited in July 2017. Acupuncture as a medical specialization is currently provided for by the Act no.296/2010 coll., Amendment no.3 to the Government decree. Article d) of this Amendment states that acupuncture is a specialization with minimum length of specialization study of 3 years which can be taken after completing one of the general study programs (internal medicine, surgery, neurology, gynaecology, anaesthesiology and intensive care, paediatrics, dental care etc.). 

The clinical training centres were accredited by Ministry of Health in 2012 and re-accredited in 2017. There are currently 7 accredited training centres (in Bratislava, Komárno, Lučenec, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Košice) and two more are preparing for accreditation. The training supervisors are specialists in the field of acupuncture, who obtained the specialization degree, completed the four-year study of traditional Chinese medicine and participated in internships in China. 

The specialization examination in Acupuncture took place in 1989, then in 2003 and since the legislation was finalized in 2010, they have been taking place regularly at the Department of Acupuncture of the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Over 900 medical practitioners use acupuncture as a supplementary technique to their general practice, 60 of them have postgraduate specialization in acupuncture and perform acupuncture and its associated techniques in independent practice. All these practitioners are educated in Chinese herbal therapy and many of them have completed internships at hospitals in China. After obtaining a degree in Acupuncture, they were granted the license to practice bestowed by the Medical Chamber. 

Medical practitioners from all fields of medicine are interested in the specialization examination and register every year; currently there are 8 physicians registered for the exam and 96 are in the process of preparation. 

Slovak Acupuncture Society, Section of Acupuncture of the Slovak Medical Chamber and the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine cooperate to provide continuous education for medical practitioners. Besides the basic acupuncture courses, there are also special workshops focusing on acupuncture and its associated techniques, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Korean medicine, Chinese herbal therapy, Qi Gong, Yamamoto new scalp acupuncture, French Nogier ear acupuncture, Su-Jok, embedding acupuncture, etc.


Over 900 physicians have completed the basic courses organized by the Department of Acupuncture and are able to practice acupuncture besides their usual practice. Students of medicine can choose to study traditional Chinese medicine as a course provided in the fifth year at the Faculty of Medicine in Bratislava and after its completion continue in a three-year study program at the Department of Acupuncture. The recommended course of study for the field of acupuncture is described in the Health care policy for Acupuncture as a Medical Specialization.

The Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine closely cooperates with the I.School of TCM in Prague (since 2010), Confucius Institute in Hungary (since 2002) and French School of Auricular Medicine in Lyon (since 1999). This cooperation follows up on the activities of the Slovak Medical Chamber, Section of Acupuncture. 

The Slovak Acupuncture Society at the Slovak Medical Association in Bratislava works with the Czech Medical Acupuncture Society at the Czech Medical Association of J.E. Purkyně to organize regular international congresses. XXX. Anniversary Congress will take place in 2019 in the High Tatras area in Slovakia. 

These two acupuncture societies also cooperate in publishing a specialized journal called Acupunctura BohemoSlovaca, included in the CIBaMed and Bibliographia Medica Slovaca databases.



Submitted by: 

                                                                            Alena Ondrejkovičová, MD, PhD.

                                                             Guarantor of the Acupuncture study program

                                                 Chief advisor to the Ministry of Health for Acupuncture 




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