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 less than $75 to more than $250 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 $15 to $100 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
A Center For Oriental Medicine
415 4th St, Wilmette, 847-251-5225
$130 $80    
Adi Barad
560 Greenbay Rd #208, Winnetka, 847-922-4039
$220 $110    
Back 2 Health
135 N Greenleaf St #126, Gurnee, 847-782-9280
$75 $50    
Central Chiropractic Associates
521 W Central Rd #2, Mount Prospect, 847-255-0606
$55-$150 $65    
Charles Lo
8 S Michigan Ave #1316, Chicago, 312-782-0487
$200 $95-$110    
Chicago Acupuncture Clinic
3723 N Southport Ave, Chicago, 773-871-0342
    $75 $70
China Medicine
1939 Waukegan Rd #205, Glenview, 847-832-0668
$70 $70    
Community Acupuncture Chicago
5138 N Clark St, Chicago, 773-655-1478
$110 $85 $50 $40
Deerfield Community Acupuncture Clinic
405 Lake Cook Rd #211, Deerfield, 847-845-4090
$100 $80 $100 $80
Dr Lo Acupuncture Clinic
8 S Michigan Ave #1316, Chicago, 312-782-0487
$200 $95-$110    
Dragon’s Life System
530 Oakmont Ln, Westmont, 630-435-5858
$65 $65    
East Point Associates
1525 E 53rd St #705, Chicago, 773-955-9643
$95 $85    
Elaine Wagner
6033 N Sheridan Rd #4S-5, Chicago, 773-274-6827
$150 $60-$95    
First Health Associates
2010 S Arlington Heights Rd #42, Arlington Heights, 847-593-3330
$120 $85    
Five Point Holistic Health
3234 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, 773-466-9882
$90 $65 $40 $30
Glenview Healing Arts Center
1757 Glenview Rd, Glenview, 847-998-8860
$195 $110    
Grubby Halo Community Acupuncture
639 W Diversey Pkwy #212, Chicago, 773-888-2566
$85 $85    
Healing House
11840 S Western Ave, Chicago, 773-233-9000
$80 $60    
Healing Spring Acupuncture Ctr
1545 Waukegan Rd #2-2, Glenview, 847-901-1800
$95 $80    
Holistic Health Practice
1 E Superior St #307, Chicago, 312-664-8376
$220 $130    
Irit L Steiner
1215 Washington Ave, Wilmette, 818-571-9307
$260 $130    
Midwest Medicine & Acupuncture
120 E Ogden Ave #201, Hinsdale, 630-655-9988
$165 $85-$95    
Midwestern Institute of Health
19 W Rollins Rd, Round Lake Beach, 847-740-7260
$125      
National University of Science
200 E Roosevelt Rd, Lombard, 630-629-9664
$50* $25*    
Natural Healing Acupuncture
870 E Higgins Rd #136, Schaumburg, 847-899-5468
$90 $75    
NorthShore University Integrative Medicine
2400 Chestnut Ave, Glenview, 847-657-3540
$125 $75    
Northside Holistic Clinic
4737 N Clark St, Chicago, 773-506-8971
$110 $85    
Pacific College of Oriental
3646 N Broadway St #2, Chicago, 773-477-4822
$42 $38    
Qiying Jiang
50 75th St #207, Willowbrook, 630-789-8946
$128 $65    
Sangha Community Acupuncture
1828 W Wilson Ave, Chicago, 773-989-8888
$120 $80 $60 $40
Sassack Family Acupuncture
3345 N Arlington Heights Rd #D, Arlington Heights, 847-873-9126
$50 $50    
Shen Shen Health & Harmony
2764 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, 773-935-4325
$90 $90    
Sino American Health Clinic
239 Main St, Roselle, 630-980-8811
$65 $39    
Total Athleticare
999 N Plaza Dr #115, Schaumburg, 847-706-9600
$100 $70    
Touch of Life Chiropratic
2500 W Higgins Rd #720, Hoffman Estates, 847-310-0303
$230-$275 $50    
Wang Acu-Chiropractic
2S065 Hampton Ln, Lombard, 630-932-1274
$85 $50    
White Moon Healing Center
1309 W Albion Ave, Chicago, 773-743-5229
$225 $75    
Whole Health Acupuncture
50 Turner Ave #101, Elk Grove Village, 847-357-3929
    $15-$40 $15-$40
Whole Life
48 E 31st St, La Grange Park, 708-352-7212
$435 $180    
* Procedures are performed by students.