How do I find an acupuncturist?

How to Chose 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.

 

 

Here are some important criteria to follow when you are making an initial attempt to choose an acupuncturist.

  • Qualifications: In the US, about 40 states have established training standards for acupuncture certification.  There is no acupuncture regulation in most provinces in Canada (except in British Columbia, Alberta, 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 highest competency, they do indicate that the practitioner has met minimum standards to treat patients using acupuncture.
  • Education: In some provinces such as Ontario*, 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 the field.  Surprisingly, there are some practitioners who practically never open any textbook after graduation.
  • 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 procedures 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 cost for acupuncture.  It is important to note that many insurance companies, especially in the states or provinces where there are no acupuncture laws, have very specific requirements in regard to acupuncturist’s qualifications and designations.  These must be met according to their policy in order to qualify for the coverage.  Check with your insurance provider for details.
  • 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

* Special Note to Consumers in Ontario

Since the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act was passed in 2006, the Transitional Council has been working hard to develop standards and a registration process for acupuncturists in Ontario. It is, however, expected to be another year approximately, before the registration of acupuncturists in Ontario begins.

This means that currently virtually anyone can identify him- or herself as an acupuncturist and perform acupuncture in Ontario. More and more health care professionals, such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, naturopaths, and massage therapists, are including acupuncture in their treatment modalities. This trend has a positive side: it provides patients with more options and increased convenience. But it is important for consumers to be aware of the wide variety of training backgrounds possessed and treatment methods used by those offering acupuncture at this time in Ontario.