What to Consider with Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment can be a new experience for patients. Depending on the state, treatment may be offered by a physician or someone with specialized training in acupuncture, and insurance may not cover procedures.

Who Offers Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is generally regulated by states, and the laws vary widely. In some states, acupuncture can be performed only by a physician, osteopath, or chiropractor. In many other states, both physicians and non-physicians may perform acupuncture, and acupuncturists must complete training to be licensed.

A number of states require acupuncturists to pass examinations conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to become licensed acupuncture practitioners.

The doctor is frequently a good resource in finding a well-qualified acupuncturist, and talking to friends who have had good experiences with acupuncture may also be helpful. With appointments frequently lasting about an hour, having a comfortable relationship with the practitioner is important.

As with any health care professional, asking in advance about the practitioner's experience and training is advised.


Paying for Acupuncture

Cost is frequently an issue with acupuncture treatments, since they may not be covered by insurance. Checking with the insurance company before beginning treatments is recommended. In some cases, health saving accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSA) may be used for acupuncture. Some insurance plans also offer discounts or partial coverage for acupuncture treatment.

Discussing the expected plan of treatment, including the number of visits and estimated cost, is common at the first visit to an acupuncture practitioner. If the cost is a potential deterrent, asking the practitioner about options is recommended at the initial visit.


In some areas, facilities called community acupuncture clinics offer low-cost acupuncture. Treatment is typically provided in a group setting, with patients resting on recliners during the procedure. Since many treatments are on the arms and legs, modesty is frequently not a factor.

The number of treatments needed varies. Generally, a chronic condition or complex condition may require one or two weekly treatments for several months. Sudden pain is likely to require a shorter number of visits. In some cases, significant relief is felt with a single treatment.

See Understanding Chronic Pain: The Gate Control Theory