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How To Choose The Right Acupuncturist

In New York City, more and more people are turning to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat ailments and create long-term health and wellness. The stresses of urban living can lead to countless maladies that are often better serviced through the holistic approach of acupuncture than invasive western medicine. 

For those who have never experienced acupuncture, it can be an intimidating service to seek out for the first time. Westerners are often misinformed about the basics of the practice; many people only know that there are needles involved and assume it must be painful! 

This could not be further from the truth. Acupuncture is a thousands-of-years-old practice that involves many different techniques, of which needling is just one. If done correctly, there should be little to zero pain involved. 

Like any person who you might turn to for medicine, it is important to know what to look for when seeking an acupuncturist who will be right for you. 

To help you feel more comfortable about the process of choosing the right practitioner, we asked our team of acupuncturists at Madison Square Wellness what advice they would give a friend who was seeking treatment:

Make sure they are well-educated and properly credentialed

Acupuncture is not an apprentice-based profession, as some assume. Make sure your acupuncturist has a bachelor’s degree, as well as a four-year master’s degree in acupuncture or TCM from an accredited institution. The knowledge of anatomy and physiology needed to practice acupuncture is on-par with a physician, and their education should reflect that training. 

Also, check to make sure they are properly licensed and credentialed to practice. Every acupuncturist should have passed the examination administered by the National Certification Commision for Acupuncture and Oriential Medicine, who’s certification ensures an industry-standard of knowledge and continuing education. Each state also requires practitioners to undergo a licensing process that legally allows them to work in a given region. 

Their office should be extremely clean and professional

This applies to all medical practitioners, but for acupuncturists who work with needles often it is doubly, triplely true. A good office has clean floors, clean equipment and obvious signs that all the staff takes the necessary precautions to remain sterile. 

You should not see any equipment lying about that is not going to be used in your treatment. There should also be obvious biohazard receptacles that your acupuncturist uses to dispose of used needles. They look kind of scary, but they are actually a very good sign that the practitioner is following safety guidelines. 

They should ask you a million questions about yourself, and listen intently

Good acupuncturists know that the most important tool they have is communication. During the first session they should get to know you as a person, and not just focus on the pain you are currently feeling. Acupuncture, and TCM as a whole, involve holistic assessments and treatments of the body. Without understanding your lifestyle and habits on a deep level, they will not be effective in treating any of the symptoms you came in to relieve. 

This process, referred to as pattern diagnoses, is extremely important to establishing a structure of treatment. A good practitioner is a good investigator. 

They should be able to explain exactly how each treatment will affect you

What you don’t want to see is someone that promises you will feel better if you sign up for 10 sessions right off the bat. Red flag.

Instead, your acupuncturist should be able to explain how each individual session will affect you, and reassess your needs on an ongoing basis. At the heart of TCM is the fundamental goal of adaptation to constant changes. Arbitrarily forcing treatment on you is a sign that they might not be in tune with that fact.   

Look for someone who can treat you creatively

There are many subtly different forms of acupuncture, some of which are better suited for specific ailments. A good acupuncturist will be familiar and adept in many of these styles. Depending on your unique characteristics and needs, they should be able to move from one treatment style to the next as necessary.

The MSQW philosophy of acupuncture

At MSQW, acupuncture is one part of a holistic suite of techniques we offer patients to achieve long-term health and wellness. Our philosophy revolves around providing proactive, integrated and goal-oriented care. 

The experienced acupuncturists on our staff offer cutting edge techniques to patients seeking a range of outcomes. If you’d like to learn more about our practice, and meet some of the people behind this advice, visit our acupuncture page here!