How to Choose an Acupuncturist
Acupuncture is a key part of Chinese traditional medicine that has become increasingly popular around the world. An acupuncturist inserts extremely thin needles at strategic points on your body in order to balance the life force, or chi.Because of its growing popularity, many different people are now licensed to practice acupuncture, from medical doctors to traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.This might make it confusing to find the right acupuncturist for your needs. By considering your options and visiting potential acupuncturists, you can choose an acupuncturist that suits your needs.
Considering Your Acupuncturist Options
Identify the reasons you want to visit an acupuncturist.People visit acupuncturists for many different reasons. While many choose to visit an acupuncturist for pain, you may have a different concern. You can see acupuncturists for things such as insomnia, infertility, anxiety, allergies, migraines, and even to stop smoking. Figuring out exactly why you want to visit an acupuncturist can help you locate the best practitioner for your needs.
- Recognize that acupuncturists not only treat medical conditions, but can also help you maintain your health and overall wellbeing if you don’t have any ailments.
Think about what qualifications you want in an acupuncturist.Most places require formal training and certification to practice acupuncture on patients. But there are different qualifications available to acupuncturists. These include:
- A three to five year Master’s degree in Oriental medicine from an accredited acupuncture school. This requires a further written and practical exam before the person can become licensed. These people usually have L.Ac. after their names and a minimum of 1,800 – 2,400 hours of education and clinical training.
- Certification from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists, which requires a degree in Oriental medicine from an accredited school or work as an apprentice acupuncturist for at least four years. These practitioners may use Dipl. Ac. (Diplomate of Acupuncture) or Dipl. O.M. (Diplomate of Oriental Medicine) after their names.
- An MD or DO who has certification. A medical doctor who is licensed in acupuncture may have L.Ac. after their name or may be a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.Be aware that most physicians can perform acupuncture after 100 – 200 hours of training, which is referred to as medical acupuncture.
Determine your specific practitioner wishes.Because there are so many different types of acupuncturists, it’s a good idea to think about what you’re looking for in your acupuncturist. For example, you may prefer someone who has training in Oriental medicine to someone with an MD. Ask yourself the following questions when determining what characteristics you want in your acupuncturist:
- Where was the acupuncturist trained to practice Oriental medicine?
- How long was the training?
- How long has the person been practicing acupuncture?
- Does the acupuncturist have experience treating my specific condition?
- Is the acupuncturist licensed?
Get referrals.Before you run an extensive search for an acupuncturist, ask someone you know who has had acupuncture. They can recommend a good acupuncturist. This can be especially helpful if the person got acupuncture for reasons similar to your own. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional if they have any recommendations for potential acupuncturists to visit.
- Give the person or your doctor a general idea of why you want to visit the acupuncturist. You can also mention what traits you’re looking for in the practitioner. For example, say, “I’m looking for someone with a degree in Oriental medicine who can help me with my insomnia.”
Making a Choice Among Your Options
Compile a list of potential acupuncture practitioners.After you’ve gathered a couple of referrals, locate a couple of other potential acupuncturists you can visit. This can give you a wide array of choices should one person not work out or fail to possess the traits you want. You can put together a list of potential acupuncturists by adding referrals and practitioners you find online or in places like the phone books or local businesses.
- Search for local acupuncturists online if you are unsure of practitioners in your local area. Sites such as the Acupuncture Referral Service can help you find acupuncturists in the United States and Acupuncture Today can locate practitioners worldwide.
- Make sure that your choices carry the proper credentials for your local area as well as the traits you desire, such as a specialty in fertility. The person should present their credentials on any website or answer questions about their qualifications if you call. The Acupuncture Referral Service offers a comprehensive list of local laws and legislation governing acupuncturists.
- Make sure you choose specific acupuncturists and not simply a clinic. You can even locate a couple of potential acupuncturists within one practice.
Look for practitioners who carry malpractice insurance.There is a low occurrence of injuries or harm with acupuncture, but accidents can sometimes happen. Inquire if the acupuncturist or practice carries malpractice insurance benefits. This benefits not only the acupuncturist, but also the patient.
Check out the office details.Now that you have found a few potential acupuncturists, take a minute to consider the details of their offices. You can also call if details are not listed on a website or other advertising. There are many factors to consider such as price, whether the office accepts health insurance, the office location, and available parking facilities.Find out the following information when making your decision on a specific acupuncturist’s practice:
- Price, such as for initial treatments and follow up visits, which can run anywhere from to 5 per session
- Forms of payment accepted and when it is expected
- What type of health insurance the office accepts or if it will give you a receipt to submit to your insurance
- Parking situation
- Exact location
- Office hours
- Services offered beyond acupuncture
Read reviews of your chosen acupuncturists.Your acupuncturist appointment, like a traditional medical doctor appointment, is often a very personal experience. Making sure you’re comfortable with the practitioner and office before you go may help reduce the risk of a bad experience. You can get a good sense of these factors through compiling your own list, but may find that reading reviews about the practitioner and their office can help you make your final decision.
- Use online services such as Angie’s List to find reviews about local acupuncturists and the experiences others have had with a specific practitioner.You can also look for acupuncturists in your local accredited by the Better Business Bureau at
Make your final selection and an appointment.Once you’ve had a chance to compile a list of potential acupuncturists, select the practitioner who most closely meets your needs and wishes. Call their office and schedule an appointment. If the acupuncturist isn’t accepting new patients, or even if you get a bad feeling when you call, move to the next person on your list.
Interviewing Potential Acupuncturists in Person
Arrive at the office early.Get to the office at least 15 minutes early, but ideally 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment. This will give you a chance to fill out any paperwork, ask administrative questions, and check out the office.
- Check in with the receptionist and let them know your name and why you’re at the office. Ask any questions you may have about things like insurance or parking.
Check around for cleanliness.Acupuncturists must legally follow the same standards of hygiene as any medical doctor’s office. This includes single use needles, no blood or vomit on surfaces, and clean hands. Ask the receptionist for a tour of the office or where the restroom is. Either of these options can give a sense of the office’s cleanliness.Look for some of the following hallmarks of a clean practice:
- Single use needles
- No needles strewn about, but in separate biohazard containers
- Properly cleaned and covered treatment table
- Properly cleaned floors and surfaces with no visible blood or body fluids
- Materials stored in sturdy and proper housing
Consult with the acupuncturist.A good acupuncturist will give you about an hour per appointment. This gives you ample time to discuss your reasons for visiting as well as any goals you may have for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions you have and answer anything your acupuncturist asks you.
- Make sure the acupuncturist allows you to discuss your wishes and concerns. A good acupuncturist is a good listener. They will often allot more time with you if it’s your first visit. See if the acupuncturist is writing down what you say, which is a good sign that they are really listening to you.
- Pay attention and answer any questions the acupuncturist asks you. The questions may seem strange, but remember that acupuncturists approach health holistically. Make sure the doctor answers any questions you have.
- Recognize that during the discussion, you should get a good sense of your personal connection with the acupuncturist. You should be able to establish a healing relationship with your acupuncturist and if the person doesn’t make you feel comfortable and calm, then it might be a good idea to try a different practitioner.
Discuss length of treatment.As a part of your initial consultation with the acupuncturist, make sure to talk about your expectations and the length of time the practitioner thinks it will take to treat you. Chronic illnesses may require months of treatment before you start seeing an effect. Having an idea of how long your treatment will last can keep you from switching acupuncturists because of perceived lack of progress.
- Ask your acupuncturist if they will work with your traditional medical doctor to create a custom plan for you. This can be especially useful if you are suffering from a chronic illness such as cancer.
- Ask about complementary services your acupuncturist offers. Some may prescribe herbal supplements to complement other medications or suggest massages in addition to acupuncture.
Undergo an acupuncture session.After your consultation, your acupuncturist will likely begin your treatment. As long as you are comfortable, lie down on the treatment bed and allow them to insert the acupuncture needles into the locations corresponding to your problem areas. Make sure to ask any questions you may have during or after the treatment.
- Let the acupuncturist know if you are uncomfortable at any point. If the practitioner doesn’t do their best to make you comfortable, consider looking for a new acupuncturist.
Video: How to Choose an Acupuncturist, Receive the Best Care
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