You may have heard people talk about the plethora of benefits they experience from receiving acupuncture, or the wide range of conditions it may treat. But how should you go about finding a good practitioner?
This article explains what to look for when searching for a new acupuncturist.
What to consider when choosing an Acupuncturist
Acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization to help treat, and ease symptoms of over 100 diseases and imbalances. It has also been practiced around the world for over 2500 years and counting.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system in itself in which diagnosis and treatment can be offered by the practitioner. Acupuncture practitioners can perform acupuncture, bodywork, prescribe herbal medicine, offer nutritional counseling, and lifestyle advice, and in some states even order lab work.
Whether you are experiencing digestive upset, sleep issues, or acute or chronic pain, knowing how to find the best acupuncturist for you is essential.
For All Your Acupuncture Needs
Not all acupuncturists are alike, as they all can vary in style, training, and focus- so finding one that fits your needs can be very beneficial to help increase your healing and overall wellness. Finding the right acupuncturist for you can be tricky, hopefully, this guide will help narrow down your search.
Your Acupuncturists’ Credentials
Acupuncturists go through rigorous medical training before they can practice this medicine, so it is important to check to see that the practitioner you are looking for has been trained at an accredited university, received their license, and are board certified. (Do note that some states do not recognize the same credentialing process as the National Commission and this may vary if you are living in states where acupuncturists need not be licensed.)
The accreditation commission for schools and universities is in accordance with the ACAHM (The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine). The minimum education is a 3-4 year Masters’s Degree, but many go on to also receive their Doctorate.
Acupuncturists must then gain their license in the particular state, or states they will practice out of. This entails following state-specific guidelines, paying the annual fees, and staying up to date with current ongoing education, ethics, and regulations. (All but three states make sure acupuncturists are regulated and licensed as full medical providers.)
It is also important to find out if they are accredited by a governing board, such as the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). Practitioners must pass extensive board exams and stay current with their continuing education credits to remain accredited by the Board. Not all states require current accreditation by the NCCAOM, but many practitioners choose to stay current with these high standards to uplift the profession and offer a high standard of care.
Specialization is not required for acupuncture professionals. Many though, do continue on within their studies to obtain specific specialization or focus upon a specific area of health.
Knowing what a practitioner enjoys treating, or is focused upon can help you best choose a provider. For example, some providers treat pain, and musculoskeletal imbalances, others focus more on fertility and women’s health, or specialize in dermatology and cosmetic acupuncture, while many others are general practitioners. If you are in need of a specific type of care it would be beneficial to learn more about the specific provider you are looking into.
A few of the specializations that are popular in the acupuncture profession are;
- Sports Medicine- Focusing on pain and musculoskeletal issues
- Reproductive Medicine- Focusing on fertility, pre/postnatal care
- Herbal Medicine- not all acupuncturists offer herbal medicine, and some are much more knowledgeable than others even if they do offer this service.
Many practitioners employ various styles and systems of thought behind how to insert the needles, and where they should be placed. For example, some practitioners use dozens of needles each session, whereas some may use as little as 4. Others may practice a more Japanese style, using tools that never penetrate the skin, and may seem more akin to acupressure. Some will use adjunct therapies such as moxa, cupping and guasha.
Even if you are new to all these terms it is important to know, especially if you have visited acupuncture in the past and wanted to try something different, a new practitioner might offer you a whole new experience.
Finding a provider in your vicinity is an important aspect when seeking care, and can make appointments more accessible, especially if you are experiencing pain, or if driving longer distances aggravates certain conditions. Certain providers may also be able to offer house calls if your condition makes it difficult to leave your home.
Using programs such as Google Maps can help you to narrow down the search of finding practitioners within a certain mile radius of your school, work, or home.
Many insurance provider directories will also have a list of practitioners within your area, and show if they have easy access to public transportation, parking, etc.
Insurance Coverage and Benefits
Many providers are covered by insurance, but not all are. If you are hoping to use your insurance benefits to cover your care it is best to call your insurance and well as the provider’s office to double-check to see if your insurance plan will cover the services rendered.
One study published on the JAMA network did show that “of 45 commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage health plans found that only one-third of plans covered acupuncture, suggesting most patients pay for acupuncture entirely out of pocket.”
Signs of a Good Acupuncturist
As with all healthcare practitioners finding one that truly listens to you and your needs is one of the most important aspects. A good provider will also be well versed both in Western and Chinese Medicine, and can seamlessly speak both “languages”.
Additional Tips for Finding the Best Acupuncturist
It is important to know that other healthcare providers may also be offering acupuncture or dry needling, but many of these providers have only received minimal training and very little if any theory behind the practice. Chiropractors, medical doctors, and nurses can take training that consists of a few hundred hours to needle patients, but their knowledge is by no means as extensive as a licensed acupuncturist, often this is known as dry-needling, which can be effective but a trained and licensed acupuncturist will also have a more holistic approach to acupuncture and a wider scope on how to increase balance with this medicine.
- World Health Organization