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 $70 to $250 or more 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 $50 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 Acupuncture Herbs
751 Rockville Pike #6-A, Rockville, MD, 301-230-9155
$125 $80    
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine
1900 L St NW #740, Washington, DC, 202-783-9404
$153 $92    
Acupuncture & Herbs Clinic
6109 Arlington Blvd #D, Falls Church, VA, 703-533-2933
$130 $70    
Advanced Health Center
46 S Glebe Rd #100, Arlington, VA, 703-521-0644
$125 $80    
Alternative Medicine Center
14955 Shady Grove Rd #250, Rockville, MD, 301-251-2335
$250 $100    
Annapolis Community Acupuncture
19 N Southwood Ave, Annapolis, MD, 443-951-1575
    $25-$50 $25-$50
Blue Heron Wellness
10723 Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD, 301-754-3730
$170 $95    
Capitol Hill Acupuncture
9 8th St SE, Washington, DC, 202-543-1911
$150 $120    
Carol Kari
5415 W Cedar Ln #204-B, Bethesda, MD, 301-897-0806
$220 $110    
Center for Health & Wellness
8218 Wisconsin Ave #304, Bethesda, MD, 301-654-9369
$150 $85    
Center Point Healing
7309 Baltimore Ave #119, College Park, MD, 301-277-9020
$160 $95    
Chinese Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic
5411 W Cedar Ln #203-A, Bethesda, MD, 301-530-7331
$180 $95    
City Acupuncture Circle
1221 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC, 202-300-8428
    $20-$50 $20-$50
Comprehensive Health Clinic
730 24th St NW, Washington, DC, 202-338-3422
$260 $140    
Dr Gang Peng
10401 Old Georgetown Rd #406, Bethesda, MD, 301-340-8444
$130 $80    
Family Acupuncture & Herb
9846 Main St, Fairfax, VA, 703-273-1643
$130 $95    
Hands on Health
1125 Nelson St, Rockville, MD, 301-294-6134
$95 $95    
Heal From Within
4545 42nd St NW #301, Washington, DC, 202-244-2289
$155 $95    
Healing Arts of Capitol Hill
316 F St NE, Washington, DC, 202-544-9389
$95 $95    
Hong Feifei Medicine
803 W Broad St #750, Falls Church, VA, 703-237-0885
$145 $88    
Huang’s Acupuncture & Herbs
730 24th St NW #2, Washington, DC, 703-597-1639
$195 $115    
Insarang Acupuncture & Herb Clinic
6926 Little River Tpke #A, Annandale, VA, 703-658-2222
$70      
The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine
6829 Elm St #300, McLean, VA, 703-532-4892
$175 $95    
Kerri Westhauser
803 W Broad St #605, Falls Church, VA, 703-231-3930
$80-$150 $95-$135    
Kim’s Acupuncture
7215 Little River Tpke, Annandale, VA, 703-503-5111
$75 $45    
Little Bird Community Acupuncture
1640 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC, 202-328-1804
    $20-$40 $20-$40
Mark D Klaiman
6400 Goldsboro Rd #340, Bethesda, MD, 301-493-8884
$250-$350 $100    
OurSpace Community Acupuncture
809 Easley St, Silver Spring, MD, 301-388-8085
    $15-$40 $15-$40
Pulse Community Care
912 Thayer Ave #105, Silver Spring, MD, 240-641-4116
$120 $90 $24-$45 $24-$45
Revive Community Acupuncture
7100 Baltimore Ave #600, College Park, MD, 301-864-1975
    $20 $20
Song Ho Health Center
805 Winhall Way, Silver Spring, MD, 301-625-4801
$165-$195 $95-$125    
Spectrum Center For Natural Medicine
8555 16th St #402, Silver Spring, MD, 301-565-2700
$100 $75    
Sports Injury Therapy Clinic
4600 Duke St #423, Alexandria, VA, 703-461-7109
$95 $95    
Steinmetz Medical Associates
1225 Martha Custis Dr #C-1, Alexandria, VA, 703-671-2700
$385 $160    
Sue Zhang Sabol
8120 Woodmont Ave #120, Bethesda, MD, 301-908-1703
$110 $70    
Traditional Acupuncture of Northern Virginia
443 Carlisle Dr 2nd Fl, Herndon, VA, 703-623-8340
$140 $90    
Transformational Acupuncture
1645 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 202-297-7404
$95 $75    
Yan Qiu He
11125 Rockville Pike #206, Rockville, MD, 301-530-6640
$120 $85    
Yao D Hao
12011 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy #320, Fairfax, VA, 703-379-7063
$160 $160    
Zoe Brenner
11106 Mitscher St, Kensington, MD, 301-933-7063
$175 $110