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 $35 to $275 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 $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
Abigail Coble
524 N 67th St, Seattle, 206-920-7979
$140 $115    
Acupuncture & Chinese Herb
9301 Linder Way NW #101, Silverdale, 360-692-7000
$100 $75    
Acupuncture & Chinese Herb Center
7037 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, 425-861-6688
$150 $100    
Acupuncture Clinic of Tacoma
722 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Tacoma, 253-572-1050
$128 $85    
Bastyr Center For Natural Health
3670 Stone Way N, Seattle, 206-834-4100
$100-$150 $100-$150    
Bellevue Acupuncture Clinic
14021 NE 8th St #B, Bellevue, 425-746-8589
$165 $105    
Best Acupuncture Clinic
3426 Broadway #101, Everett, 425-303-8835
$80 $65    
Chen’s Acupuncture
13400 NE 20th St #28, Bellevue, 425-644-2056
$98 $65    
Chinese Acupuncture Center
6314 19th St W #7, Fircrest, 253-581-4111
$60 $60    
Chris Woon
115 S 8th St, Tacoma, 253-272-9959
$120 $85    
Clearview Acupunture & Herbal
18122 Rte 9 SE #D, Snohomish, 360-668-2288
$200 $200    
CommuniChi
2109 31 Ave S, Seattle, 206-860-5009
    $30-$50 $20-$40
Community Acupuncture Project
4545 44th Ave SW, Seattle, 206-933-7891
    $30 $20
Dan Tennenbaum
14810 Lake Hills Blvd #A2, Bellevue, 425-373-1416
$140 $87    
Eastside Acupuncture & Herbal
16761 NE 79th St, Redmond, 425-882-0112
$140 $90-$100    
Edgewood Acupuncture & Herbs
1420 Meridian E, Milton, 253-927-5905
$80-$90 $60-$70    
Fremont Community Acupuncture
418 N 35th St, Seattle, 206-659-4990
    $25-$50 $15-$40
Gentle Acupuncture
12717 4th Ave W #C3, Everett, 425-347-2308
$85 $70    
Glow Natural Health Center
2719 E Madison St #203, Seattle, 206-568-7545
$125 $80    
Green Point Acupuncture
1817 Queen Anne Ave N #216, Seattle, 206-313-0961
$110 $80 $30-$50 $20-$40
Health Connection
601 S Pine St #201, Tacoma, 253-396-1000
$95 $70    
Jianli Wang
5017 196th St SW #206, Lynnwood, 425-672-2838
$35 $35    
Joy of Acupuncture
1219 Broadway, Everett, 425-259-4569
$85 $65    
Kang Acupuncture & Herbal
13400 NE 20th St #3, Bellevue, 425-401-8885
$128 $105    
Linda Minato
1900 S Puget Dr, Renton, 425-277-1123
$80 $70    
Long Life Acupuncture
901 Boren Ave #1700, Seattle, 206-525-4845
$165 $85    
Ma’s Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine
1115 N 81st St, Seattle, 206-527-0033
$125 $80    
Michelle Thoreson
2208 NW Market St #410, Seattle, 206-781-2734
$135 $95    
Mountlake Acupuncture
1008 Central Ave N, Kent, 253-520-8800
$80 $70    
North Seattle Community Acupuncture
10212 5th Ave NE #120, Seattle, 206-524-6428
    $20-$40 $20-$40
Northwest Alternative Healing
3316 NE 125th St, Seattle, 206-528-1038
$120 $75    
Purple Dragon Community Acupuncture
7324 15th Ave NW, Seattle, 206-397-4135
    $30-$55 $20-$45
Seattle Acupuncture Associates
11903 NE 128th St #B, Kirkland, 425-820-6339
$130 $95    
Seattle Acupuncture Wellness Center
10564 5th Ave NE #404, Seattle, 206-522-1509
$135 $75    
Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine
444 NE Ravenna Blvd #101, Seattle, 206-517-4541
$40 $40    
Su & Jin Family Acupunture
5343 Tallman Ave NW #206, Seattle, 206-783-7771
$140 $95    
Tai Chi Acupuncture
6850 35th Ave NE, Seattle, 206-528-4678
$128 $98    
Tree Top Acupuncture
4061 4th Ave NE, Seattle, 206-323-3277
$90 $75    
U-District Community Acupuncture
4556 University Way NW #222, Seattle, 206-280-8341
    $20-$40 $20-$40
Wedgwood Acupuncture
8034 35th Ave NE, Seattle, 206-525-1328
$95 $80    
Wu Hsing Healthcare
4000 NE 41st St, Seattle, 206-324-4097
$275 $135    
Yim’s Acupuncture & Herbs
10725 SE 256th St, Kent, 253-520-3820
$145 $75    
Zhi Ping Koluch
6300 9th NE #200, Seattle, 206-522-5646
$95 $75