Find a provider
Unless one of your friends of family members has already had good luck with a doctor of Chinese medicine, there’s a good chance that the question of how to find a physician can seem a little daunting. Here we take a look at the question of how to find an acupuncturist, herbalist, tui-na massage therapist, and other types of traditional Chinese medicine healthcare providers.
-What traits to look for in a healer
Even before you even start looking for a healer, there’s an important first step you mustn’t overlook: checking to see whether your health insurance, if you have it, covers alternative medicine. Nowadays increasing numbers of insurance plans in Western countries cover acupuncture, and some will even cover trips to doctors who use herbs or bodywork. If you’re an expat living in an Asian country, your insurance might also cover such visits, so before you start considering paying out-of-pocket, contact your insurance company and ask about their coverage of alternative medicine. You might stand to save a lot of money.
Word of Mouth
Now that you’re ready to actually look for a doc of traditional Chinese medicine, you should consider beginning your search in the traditional place: amongst family and friends. In China, without a doubt, the single most important factor people consider when they’re looking for doctors is word-of-mouth reputation.
Reputation is important for any doctor in any healing tradition, but it is perhaps even more important in Chinese medicine than in Western medicine. Why? Western medicine’s protocols are far more standardized than those in Chinese medicine, and Western medicine also relies very heavily on diagnostic machinery as well as medicines and procedures which are, relative to Chinese medicine, straightforward in terms of how they are selected and employed.
Chinese medicine, on the other hand, leaves doctors with tons and tons of room to develop personal styles both in terms of diagnosis and treatment techniques. For this reason, Chinese medicine doctors’ approaches to the exact same condition might be extremely different, with, for example, one using needles, and the other using herbs. Reputation will help you find a physician whose skills, techniques, and personality are a good match for you.
So before you do anything else, ask around. You might be surprised by how many people in your social circle have actually tried Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture. If none of your close friends or family has, there’s still a very high chance that somebody at work or church or a friend of a friend has had a great experience with a healer in your community. If you can come across this kind of recommendation, it’s golden, because you’re getting a thumbs-up from somebody who has already gone and been a guinea pig for you!
Below is a list of links to search tools for finding acupuncturists and other Chinese medicine healthcare providers in major English-speaking countries.
In the USA
- The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is a nationwide professional association for acupuncturists. It has a search feature allows you to find members of the AAAOM in your area.
- The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture is a professional association for medical doctors (including MDs, osteopaths, and dentists) who practice acupuncture. It has a search feature for listings of its more than 1,300 members.
- The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine administers examinations which are required for acupuncture and Oriental medicine certification in 43 states and Washington, DC. Its search feature can help you find licensed practitioners in your area.
- Acufinder claims to have "the largest and most comprehensive directory of acupuncture practitioners and acupuncture clinics worldwide." This site allows licensed practitioners to create their own listings.
- The National Qigong Association has a search feature for members, who include qigong instructors and therapists.
Medical doctor ratings sites
Please note that these sites only allow you to search for MDs who also practice acupuncture or other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Most TCM healthcare providers are not MDs.
- Health Grades allows you to find medical doctors who use Chinese medicine. This site includes traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and acupressure among its searchable specialties.
- RateMDs allows you to search for MDs who practice acupuncture.
- Vitals allows you to search nationwide for MDs who offer acupuncture.
In the UK
- The British Acupuncture Council is a self-regulating body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the United Kingdom. It has a search feature for acupuncturists.
- The British Medical Acupuncture Society is a registered charity that encourages the scientific use of acupuncture within medicine, and has its own search feature.
- The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists has a search feature for its 6,500 members, who integrate Western evidence-based acupuncture into mainstream physiotherapy
- The Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine is a charity that "provides the public with information about the safe and appropriate choice of complementary medicine," with an extensive searchable database of its members.
- The Acupuncture-Acutherapy Council is a professional register that in promotes qualified practitioners of acupuncture, acupressure, and related therapies, with a search feature to find practitioners.
- Acupuncture Canada, a not-for-profit education and advocacy organization, allows you to search for acupuncturists, TCM doctors, or other providers such as medical doctors and registered nurses who are qualified to practice acupuncture or other forms of Chinese medicine.
- Acufinder, a US-based site, also has extensive listings in Canada.
- The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association, the leading national professional association for acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in Oz, provides a search feature to help you find member practitioners.
- The Australian Natural Therapists Association, the "largest national democratic association of 'recognised professional' traditional, complementary medicine, and natural therapy practitioners" in Australia, allows you to search for practitioners offering acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui-na massage, and Oriental remedial therapy.
- Natural Therapy Pages lets you search for providers of acupuncture, acupressure, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese massage (tui-na), qigong, herbal medicine, cupping, and tai chi.
- HealthEngine allows you to search for specialists offering acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and Chinese herbal medicine in Australia.
In New Zealand
- The New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists is the largest professional association of acupuncturists and TCM doctors in NZ, with a search feature for registered practitioners throughout the country.
- The New Zealand Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Society does not currently have a searchable database, but it provides a list of providers in the North and South Islands