Ballpark estimate: $50-$250+ per session
If you’re looking for a natural way to address medical concerns or pain, investing in the cost of acupuncture sessions may pay off in improved health and wellbeing. Acupuncture is a Chinese treatment dating back to ancient times that has become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years. This practice involves sticking needles into designated points throughout the body in order to balance the energy flow and release endorphins, which are natural pain killers that relieve the pain from various illnesses, injuries, and health issues, including back and muscular pain, infertility, migraines, insomnia, and much more.
To understand the benefits of acupuncture, you need to know that the goal is to address blockages in the patient’s “chi,” which is the Chinese term for energy. According to Chinese tradition, it’s believed that if the energy becomes blocked or is not flowing correctly, this imbalance leads to pain and illness. By identifying the blockage points, acupuncturists strategically place the needles in corresponding locations to help balance the person’s energy and promote healing. While the idea of being stuck with needles can be off-putting at first, most people do not experience any pain or discomfort. This makes it an appealing alternative to many traditional treatments that come with unwelcome side effects.
Scientific studies have found that acupuncture can bring real relief to some patients. As a result, a number of respected health agencies and groups recommend acupuncture for many ailments, often in conjunction with other, more conventional, medicine approaches. Note that before you seek treatment for an acupuncturist, you should see a medical doctor first to make sure this is a safe option for your situation.
During your first visit, the practitioner will review your case with you and identify what areas are causing you pain. Typically, he or she will look at your face, tongue, and pulses, then will have you lie on a table and will place very slender needles into designated spots. Usually five to 20 needles will be used at one time, sometimes with added heat (or even electrical pulses) to supplement the effect. The needles can be left in for up to 20 minutes. Sessions are usually repeated anywhere from once a week to several times a week, depending on the nature of the condition.
Within the first several visits, you may begin feeling some benefits. Some acupuncturists also recommend that their patients use vitamins or supplements along with the treatment sessions.
While acupuncture doesn’t cause any significant side effects, it can temporarily make symptoms seem more extreme, or can cause changes to the body’s functioning, such as making you hungrier. Further, occasionally, acupuncture will not be effective. If you don’t have any results within the first month, you may want to talk to your acupuncturist about whether it is worth continuing.
Where to Find
You can do a search online to find an acupuncturist in your area. A good place to start is with some of the national organizations such as The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. All of these groups offer searchable directories of practitioners. Be sure to look for someone who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and who meets all licensure guidelines in your state. It’s important to know that to be a licensed acupuncturist in the U.S., practitioners must earn a three-years master’s level degree in acupuncture or a four-year master’s level degree in Oriental medicine. Some colleges and universities also offer doctoral level training in the field.
The Cost for Acupuncture
The cost for acupuncture depends on the individual practitioner or group you select and where the practice is located. You can expect to pay more in big cities where rents and salaries are higher than in more rural areas. In addition, very established or well-known acupuncturists with an impressive track record can command a higher rate than people just starting out in the business. Generally, the first session will be more expensive because it is longer and more involved in order for the acupuncturist to evaluate your condition and come up with a treatment plan. A typical initial visit might cost between $100 and $250. Follow-up treatment sessions can range between $50 and $125 or more.
Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture?
Today, some insurance companies may cover some of the cost of acupuncture if it is deemed as medically necessary (and documented as such) by your physician. Check with your insurer to find out exactly what is covered under your plan. Some acupuncturists offer discounts if you pay in cash at the time of the visit and/or purchase multiple sessions at once. If your insurance policy does not include any benefits for acupuncture, you may be able to pay for your sessions using a flexible spending plan.
An Economical Option
If cost is an issue, you could look for an acupuncturist who offers community acupuncture sessions. This is a lower-cost group treatment option that makes this technique more affordable. You may be able to cut your costs in half (and may save even more) with group sessions. You can also look for colleges that run clinics for student interns earning degrees in acupuncture to get on-the-job experience. Sessions with students can be as low as $35 or less.
To Tip or Not Tip?
Some people give a tip to their acupuncturist, especially when they receive services through a spa or other luxury setting). Keep in mind that tipping is not a requirement, though. If you do want to tip, 15 to 20 percent is standard but many patients do not feel it’s necessary to tip for a medical service like this.