You may as well go to a certified acupuncturist. Although there are competent acupuncturists who are not certified, there are plenty of certified ones, so take advantage of this quality check.

If the acupuncturist is a physician, look for certification by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA), which means he or she is a medical school graduate, completed at least 300 hours of acupuncture education in an ABMA-approved education program, passed an exam, and completed at least two years of medical acupuncture clinical experience with a case history of not less than 500 medical acupuncture treatments. Alternatively, consider a physician who is a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, which means he or she completed at least 220 hours of formal acupuncture training (there’s no exam).

If the acupuncturist is not a physician, check for certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), which means he or she earned a three-year master’s degree or a combination of an apprenticeship with at least two academic years of formal education. The apprenticeship route requires at least 500 treatments within the past five years or 5,000 for a career. There’s also an exam. NCCAOM-certified acupuncturists can add “Dipl. Ac.” after their names.

Talk with friends about their acupuncture experiences. Checkbook.org offers reviews from area patients (we primarily survey Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers).

You might also get recommendations from your primary care doctor or specialist. Some physicians have nothing but disdain for acupuncture, but many consider it an effective treatment for certain types of cases and have experience with, or patient feedback on, local practitioners.

Contact acupuncturists you are considering and ask:

  • Who at the practice performs acupuncture? If you are talking with the office of a physician or chiropractor, don’t simply assume that your acupuncture treatment will be performed by the physician or chiropractor.
  • How long has the acupuncturist been in practice?
  • What training, licensing, and certifications does the acupuncturist have?
  • Does the acupuncturist have experience treating your type of condition or problem?
  • What techniques does the acupuncturist use? Some acupuncturists use a wide range of complementary techniques like tu nai massage, moxibustion and cupping; others use just one approach.
  • Is the treatment covered by your health insurance plan? Do you need a referral from your physician?
  • For your condition, what is the typical course of treatment? How many treatments are needed, and how often? For comparison, among the dozens of acupuncturists we surveyed for treatment of an arthritic knee, most said we could expect improvement within one to five treatment sessions.
  • How much will it cost?

Since there are many qualified acupuncturists, and since other consumers tend to be especially satisfied with them, pay attention to prices. Checkbook’s undercover shoppers called a sample of area acupuncturists for their fees for private treatment of arthritic knee pain. The prices we were quoted are listed on the table below. As you can see, our shoppers were quoted prices ranging from $40 to $190 for an initial private session. There was a lot of variation in how long the acupuncturists said this initial visit would last, though most estimated between 45 minutes and 90 minutes.

We also asked about prices for community acupuncture. Prices quoted to our undercover shoppers were far lower than those for private sessions, ranging from $20 to $55 per session among acupuncturists who offered it.

Keep in mind that because the IRS considers acupuncture a qualifying medical expense, you can pay fees through a pre-tax health savings account.

Illustrative Acupuncture Prices

Prices were quoted to Checkbook's undercover shoppers who called inquiring about costs to treat arthritic knee pain

Private acupuncture session Community acupuncture
Initial treatment Follow-up treatments Initial treatment Follow-up treatments
Abby Kessler Center Acupressure
815 Washington St, Newton, 617-964-9519
$80 $80    
Acupuncture & Herbs
1077 Lexington St #203, Waltham, 781-642-7934
$110 $85    
Acupuncture Associates
336 Union Ave, Framingham, 508-872-7077
$55 $55    
Acupuncture Center of Andover
6 Apollo Cir, Andover, 978-685-3210
$110 $75    
Acupuncture Family Practice
75 Union Ave, Sudbury, 978-443-6789
$66 $66    
Acupuncture for Everyone
581 Boylston Cir, Boston, 617-875-1143
    $30-$50 $20-$40
Acupuncture Holistic Care
1693 Beacon St, Brookline, 617-417-5525
$120 $80    
Acupuncture Partners
62 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, 781-860-8808
$150 $60    
Acupuncture Together
2464 Massachusetts Ave #420, Cambridge, 617-499-9993
    $35-$55 $20-$40
Bedford Acupuncture
18 Roberts Dr, Bedford, 781-696-6782
$105 $80    
Brookline Community Acupuncture
318 Harvard St #24, Brookline, 617-879-9992
    $35-$50 $25-$40
Cambridge Health Associates
335 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-354-8360
$175 $115    
Center For Acupuncture
1646 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, 781-860-9449
$148 $95    
Chinese Natural Health
167 Corey Rd #111, Brighton, 617-277-4458
$90 $70    
Darrell Y Wallace
56 Winthrop St, Concord, 978-369-2266
$125 $85    
Davis Square Acupuncture
278 Elm St #227, Somerville, 617-548-8167
$112 $82    
Donna Nolan Acupuncture
20 Willow Ave, Quincy, 617-479-3060
$75 $75    
Dorene Bowe-Shulman
77 Great Rd # 203, Acton, 978-621-4828
$105 $85    
Eastwest Health Works
6 Boston Rd, Chelmsford, 978-256-9499
$70 $70    
First Choice Health Center
266 Cabot St, Beverly, 978-922-0831
$65 $65    
Gateway Healthcare Associates
150 Harvard Rd, Stow, 978-897-5979
$80 $80    
Geoff D’Arcy Acupuncture
63 S Main St, Natick, 508-652-1975
$190 $90    
Global Health Associates
14 W Central St, Natick, 508-650-6988
$90 $90    
Harvard Square Chiropractic
15 Story St, Cambridge, 617-441-0101
$120 $90    
The Healing Point
25 Stow Rd, Boxborough, 978-263-4026
$105 $85    
Healing Touch Acupuncture
50 North St, Medfield, 508-359-4910
$150 $95    
Integrative Wellness
132 Great Rd #201, Stow, 978-461-2001
$95 $75    
Internal Arts Acupuncture
77 Turnpike Rd, Ipswich, 978-412-8272
$80 $80    
Joy Community Acupuncture
335 Boylston St #3, Newton, 617-510-0559
    $35-$55 $25-$45
Marino Center
2500 Massachusetts Ave #2500, Cambridge, 617-661-6225
$125 $75    
Matthew Robinson
25 Grant Pl, Waltham, 781-899-2121
$110 $85    
Natalia Muina
349 Dedham St, Newton, 617-630-5606
$140 $85    
New England Acupuncture
111 Boston Post Rd, Sudbury, 978-440-8086
$95 $75    
New England Community Acupuncture
323 New Boston St #2, Woburn, 781-933-8088
    $40 $20-$40
New England School of Acupuncture
150 California St, Newton, 617-558-1788
$40 $40    
Open Space Community Acupuncture
70 Union Square #102, Somerville, 617-627-9700
    $30-$50 $20-$40
3 Sons Healing
157 Lindell Ave, Leominster, 978-635-9122
$70 $70    
Tsay CMP Whole Health
385 Harvard St, Brookline, 617-232-9696
$90 $80