Consumer Information

What You Should Know About Acupuncturists and Their Services

What is a licensed acupuncturist?

An acupuncturist is a licensed health care professional who, based on the concepts of oriental medicine, maintains the health of patients and evaluates and treats their illness and pain.

What is a certified acupuncturist?

A certified acupuncturist is a licensed physician or dentist who has completed at least 200 hours of instruction in programs in acupuncture registered by the department, or in programs determined by the department to be the equivalent of registered programs, and at least 100 hours of supervised experience acceptable to the department.

How do acupuncturists treat health conditions?

Using the principles of oriental medicine, the acupuncturist will examine you by looking, listening, asking questions, and touching. This allows the acupuncturist to record a full case history.

Once an evaluation is made, the acupuncturist may insert very fine acupuncture needles into a number of points on your body. The purpose of the needles is to stimulate acupuncture points; the needles do not inject any substance into the body. Single time use, pre-sterilized disposable needles are the preferred standard of practice.

Often, acupuncture may be accompanied by electrical stimulation or the burning of moxa, a form of heat therapy or the use of heat lamps. Acupuncturists may also use a variety of other techniques to enhance acupuncture treatment.

When would I use the services of a New York acupuncturist?

Many conditions may respond to acupuncture, including those related to the following:

  • neurological system
  • musculo-skeletal system
  • respiratory system
  • gynecologic and reproductive system
  • digestive system
  • genito-urinary system

Acupuncture may also help with:

  • acute and chronic pain
  • maintaining emotional balance
  • stress reduction and detoxification

What is the relationship between an acupuncturist and a medical doctor?

Acupuncturists are independent health care providers; you do not need a physician referral to receive treatment from an acupuncturist.

By law, your acupuncturist must advise you of the importance of your seeing a physician. When this is done, you will be asked to sign a form saying that you were advised of this. You will get one copy of this form, and a second copy will become part of your record.

What credentials do New York licensed acupuncturists have?

A licensed acupuncturist has completed a three-year professional training program in acupuncture after a minimum of two years of college education. This three-year program includes both theory and hands-on clinical practice. In addition, a licensed acupuncturist must pass a State-approved licensing examination before becoming licensed.

What do the letters after an acupuncturist’s name mean?

The initials used in connection with a licensed acupuncturist’s name are “L.Ac.”, and only a licensed acupuncturist may use these initials. An individual can include an earned academic degree after their name.

Use of the title “doctor” when offering to perform professional services must reflect the profession in which the licensee holds a doctorate degree. If the professional is not a medical doctor, the profession in which the licensee holds a doctorate must be indicated in some fashion, such as Dr. Jones, DAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, or John Jones, L.Ac., DAOM, Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

How will I know if the licensed or certified acupuncturist providing my care is licensed in New York?

Only a licensed acupuncturist or a physician or dentist certified in acupuncture may provide acupuncture services. You may verify a license by checking the Office of the Professions website. In addition, you may check to see if an acupuncturist has been found guilty of professional misconduct by looking at the same website.

Display of credentials.

Licensed and certified acupuncturists must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional’s name, address, and dates of the registration period. They must re-register every three years in order to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, their licenses from other states, or membership certificates. You may verify a professional’s license and current registration on this site.

How do I locate an acupuncturist?

Acupuncturists work in private offices, clinics, spas and hospitals. Only a licensed acupuncturist or a physician or dentist certified in acupuncture may provide acupuncture services.  Check with relatives, friends or colleagues who have had a successful experience with an acupuncturist. You can also check under "Acupuncturists" in the yellow pages of your telephone book.  Look to see if the acupuncturist holds any association with a reputable organization such as NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), which has an online, searchable directory of its members..

The State Board for Acupuncture cannot refer you to a practitioner.

What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.

What records does my acupuncturist retain? Can anyone else get them?

Your file includes a record of your history, evaluation and treatment. Your file also includes a copy of the signed form that says the acupuncturist advised you on the importance of seeing a physician. Acupuncturists must keep client records for six years or until the client turns 22, whichever is longer.

Generally, your records are confidential unless you approve their release. Ask your professional about exceptions to this. If you want a copy of your records, provide your acupuncturist with a written request. You may be charged a reasonable fee to offset the cost of providing copies.

Will my health insurance cover the services provided by my acupuncturist?

It may. Some health care plans cover acupuncture. Review your insurance plan's benefits with your insurance provider.

To help your professional relationship with your acupuncturist you should:

  • Answer all health-related questions completely and accurately
  • Ask questions to help you understand your evaluation and treatment plan
  • Ask whether the acupuncturist uses disposable needles
  • Ask if your condition is appropriate for acupuncture treatment, and whether the acupuncturist has had experience treating it
Last Updated: November 22, 2013