How do I find an acupuncturist?

Choosing An Acupuncturist

Extreme close-up mid section of a male doctor holding acupuncture needles

We have been receiving numerous inquiries requesting referrals to local acupuncturists. Below are some tips on how to find the right acupuncturist.

Qualifications: In the US, forty-seven states (and District of Colombia) have practice acts in place which established training standards for acupuncture certification. Of these, 22 states require the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) Board Certification to obtain an acupuncture license.  

In Canada, the practice of acupuncture is regulated in the provinces of British Colombia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. If you reside in areas where acupuncture is regulated, you should make sure that the acupuncturist is licensed and registered with the regulatory body.  Although proper credentials do not ensure the highest competency, they do indicate that the practitioner has met minimum standards to treat patients using acupuncture.

Education: In some countries, states, or provinces where acupuncture is not regulated, each acupuncturist’s training varies greatly. While some acupuncturists have completed more than 3-4 years of study in a full time program, others may be providing acupuncture after only taking a few weekend courses.

Clean Needle Technique:  It is also very important to confirm that the acupuncturist practices Clean Needle Technique and uses disposable needles.  This issue is particularly important in the regions where acupuncture is not regulated.

Experience:  Ask the acupuncturist about the number of years of clinical experience.  It is impossible to develop mastery and fluency in acupuncture only by classroom training.  There are many elements in acupuncture which can only be earned through years of clinical practice.

Continuing Education:  Health care knowledge is advancing at a rapid pace.  It is important that your practitioner is up-to-date in not only the acupuncture field but also general healthcare.

Acupuncture Styles:  It is also useful to ask which technique the acupuncturist uses. Even among qualified acupuncturists, the techniques used vary greatly according to each one’s background (Read Acupuncture Styles to learn more).  For example, some acupuncturists hook up a few needles to an electro-stimulator for several minutes, while others utilize more traditional procedures involving more systemic needling during an hour-long appointment.  Both methods are still referred to as “acupuncture,” and this is important to keep in mind when making inquiries.

Cost: Since many health conditions require a series of acupuncture sessions, the treatment cost is a great consideration for many people.  As for acupuncture techniques, treatment fees also vary greatly (for example, in the US, while a single acupuncture session can be as low as twenty USD, some acupuncturists in fact charge three to five hundred USD per session).  The treatment fee is determined by both subjective and objective factors such as practitioner’s confidence or motivation, clinic location, qualifications, experience, quality of disposable needles and other equipment used, acupuncture procedure, and duration of each session, etc.  It is important to consider these variables instead of simply comparing prices only.

Insurance: Many insurance companies in the US and Canada now cover all or some of the costs for acupuncture.  It is important to note that many insurance companies have particular requirements concerning acupuncturist’s qualifications and designations. These must be met according to their policy to qualify for the coverage. Each plan and coverages are unique. Check with your insurance provider for details.

Non-acupuncturist providers of acupuncture: Depending on your location, you may find other healthcare practitioners (e.g., chiropractors, physiotherapists, etc.) providing acupuncture. The practitioner often uses the term such as dry needling, neuromuscular needle, or medical acupuncture. The acupuncture is typically provided as an adjunct modality. For certain health conditions, adjunct acupuncture can be sufficient to produce good results.

Who is the Best? The ‘best acupuncturist’ for one person may not be the best for another. Sometimes it is necessary to try out different acupuncturists or styles.

He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.

Sir William Osler