Buyer Beware: How To Pick an Acupuncturist

Patients often ask, “I’d like to refer someone I know to an Acupuncturist where they live out-of-state, how do I help them find a good Acupuncturist?” Or “I’m going to be out of state for three months and I want to continue care while I’m away, how can I find a good Acupuncturist in that area?”

First of all, do not hesitate to ask us to help you find someone in another area, as we train Acupuncturists all over the U.S. and even Canada.  The basic question to ask a prospective Acupuncturist is: “Do you practice TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)?” If they say yes, their focus will be on treating symptoms, not treating the underlying cause of a symptom. To understand more, continue reading…

“The modern day practice of acupuncture in China that has been imported to the United States is known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)… Mao [Tse Tung] established 5 universities… the system of TCM shows the influence of Western Medicine as well as the Communist society from which it springs …. There are aspects to the tradition of acupuncture that pre-date the China of Mao Tse Tung that still survive, especially in the traditions of acupuncture in Japan … in these oldest traditions of acupuncture, the most skilled practitioner was the physician who could, though a careful evaluation of the subtle physical signs and a careful evaluation… detect disease in its earliest stages before the person became gravely ill.”  (source: http://www.acupunctureworks.organicmd/acu/acufaq.htm)

In summary, TCM practitioners treat symptoms for short-term (if any) gains, or, “Give a man a fish.” Functional-style practitioners increase the body’s function so it can heal itself; “Teach a man to fish.”

Brief Timeline of Chinese Medicine:

1500 BC: first recorded attempt at conceptualizing and treating disease with Chinese medicine; discovered written on the inside of a tortoise shell.

≈200 BC: earliest known medical text, Huangdi Neijing (English : “Yellow Emperor’s Classic”) is written.

113 BC: earliest examples of metal needles believed to be used for medical purposes found in a tomb in China.

1600 AD: Chinese Medicine evolves with a focus on longevity, vitality, virility and fertility.

1671 AD: earliest written record of acupuncture released in the western world.

1949 AD: Mao Tse Tung creates TCM, destroying volumes of material that were based on the original form of  Acupuncture.

1972 AD: Journalist James Reston accompanies Richard Nixon to China and reports on Acupuncture being used as anesthetic for minor and major surgery, igniting American interest.

Present Day: The vast majority of practitioners in America practice TCM without knowing it, as American interest began AFTER Mao Tse Tung bastardized the medicine. Thankfully, at least a very small percentage of Acupuncturists still utilize the ancient and most effective methods of Acupuncture.

A good, competent acupuncturist will give the ideal responses to all or at least the majority of the questions below:

Question to ask:

Ideal Reply:

1. Do you practice TCM?

No. (If yes, the practitioner is symptom focused.)
2. Do you perform a full, exhaustive intake, prior to treatment, to see if acupuncture can even help? Yes. (If no, major red flag.)
3.  Do you systematically educate your patients over 2-3 visits in the beginning of care? Yes. (If no, possible caregiver communication barrier or lack of comprehension of Chinese Medicine.)
4. Do you chart function? Yes. (If no, symptom-focused.)
5.  Do you use hospital standards and have certification in U.S. Clean Needle Techniques? Yes. (If no, lack of training and possible health hazard for patient.)
6.  Do you use Chinese-manufactured acupuncture needles? (Chinese needles are cheaper in cost to practitioner.) No (If yes, Chinese standards are much lower, thus much more painful treatments.)
7. Do you have multiple practitioners that work together as a team with each patient? Yes (If no, indicates possible inflexibility of  thought and lack of team approach to your health.)
8.  Do you have a national license as a Diplomate in Acupuncture and a Diplomate in Chinese Herbology?

Yes (If no, indicates the practitioner did not pass the national board exams.)

As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to either email or call us! We’re here to answer any questions you may have.