How to Choose an Acupuncturist

by Lynn Jaffee

Choosing an acupuncturist can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had acupuncture before.  It’s important to ask some questions before you book an appointment for acupuncture treatment to make sure you’re getting the right practitioner for you and your particular needs.  The following are some questions to ask a prospective practitioner before you book your first appointment, to help you choose the right one.

Are you a licensed acupuncturist?  What is your education in acupuncture?
This is an important first question to ask anyone before they perform acupuncture on you!  All too frequently consumers are led to believe that any practitioner who is trained or certified to practice acupuncture is highly qualified in the art of diagnosis and treatment using the principles of Chinese Medicine. Don’t hesitate to ask a prospective practitioner about their credentials and training.

Physicians are only required to have 50 hours of training in the technical use of acupuncture prior to using it as a treatment.  This is considered “medical acupuncture”.

Many chiropractors advertise that they offer acupuncture.  It is important to know, however, they are only required to have 100 to 150 hours of unspecified training in acupuncture.  They take a test sponsored by the local Chiropractic Board and pay a fee to become “certified”.  Chiropractors who perform acupuncture call themselves “Board Certified Acupuncturists”.  In addition, they are legally limited only to acupuncture treatments that augment chiropractic adjustments.

Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc) in Minnesota are required to have a minimum of 1,800 to 2,400 hours of education and clinical training.  They must also be board certified with the NCCAOM, a national regulatory agency governing Oriental Medical education and credentials, and they are licensed by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.

Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc) practice internal Chinese medicine, which focuses on the underlying source of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.  As a result, their treatments go beyond simple pain relief offered by most chiropractors and medical acupuncturists.

Most Licensed Acupuncturists must also have a Masters degree in either Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine.  The distinction between the two is that a practitioner with a Masters in Acupuncture is trained primarily in acupuncture.  A practitioner with a Masters in Oriental Medicine is trained both in acupuncture and diagnosis and treatment using traditional Chinese herbs.

Do you have a specialty?  What is your experience and success with my particular condition?
Some acupuncturists treat any and all conditions.  However, many specialize in treating certain conditions, such as muscle and joint pain, stress and anxiety, infertility, or women’s conditions. It is important to ask whether a prospective practitioner has had some experience in treating your condition.

What kind of acupuncture do you practice?
Most people don’t know that there are many different kinds of acupuncture, such as Traditional Chinese acupuncture, Ear acupuncture, Japanese style, Korean Hand acupuncture, cosmetic acupuncture, and scalp acupuncture. Some of these different kinds of acupuncture are more effective for specific conditions.  For example, Ear acupuncture is especially successful for addictions, such as quitting smoking and weight loss, and scalp acupuncture might be more valuable for conditions affecting the nervous system. Be sure to ask what conditions are best helped by your practitioner’s kind of acupuncture.

How many treatments will I need?
This is actually a trick question.  No practitioner should answer this question on the phone before they have seen you, taken your health history and made a diagnosis. In fact, everyone heals at a different pace.  Your condition may be resolved in one or two treatments, or it may take many more, especially if it is a long-term chronic condition.

Do you accept insurance?
Most health care plans currently don’t pay for acupuncture treatments.  As a result, many acupuncturists are fee for service providers.  If you think your health insurance plan may cover acupuncture, check with them to be sure, and make sure the acupuncturist you ultimately choose will accept your insurance as payment.

If you have a health savings plan, acupuncture qualifies for reimbursement.  Be sure to ask your acupuncturist for a receipt.

You must be logged in to post a comment.