By Sara Calabro

We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: not all acupuncturists are created equal.

Acupuncturists differ on everything from how they were trained to the conditions they treat to the kind of music they like. Where your acupuncturist falls on these variety of spectrums can determine whether he or she is right for you.

On more than a few occasions, readers have emailed me asking how to know if their acupuncturist is any good. Usually, it’s not a matter of good or bad. It’s a matter of fit.

If your acupuncturist is not a good fit for you—the condition you need help with as well as your personality, financial situation, and personal tastes—you’re unlikely to achieve optimal results from acupuncture.

7 reasons to change acupuncturists

Here are seven signs that it may be time to break up with your acupuncturist:

You notice no improvement after 10 visits

Acupuncture rarely works overnight. Its effects are cumulative, meaning one treatment builds on the next. Certain acute problems, such as neck stiffness from too much computer use, can resolve in five or fewer treatments. With chronic conditions, it typically takes at least 10 treatments to resolve the issue.

However, over 10 treatments, even if your issue is chronic, you should notice some improvement. This does not mean your condition will have disappeared. But you should be feeling better in some way. For example, you might be sleeping better, seeing improvements in your digestion, or feeling more energetic. Learn about these and other acupuncture side effects.

If after 10 treatments you feel exactly the same as you did the first day you walked into your acupuncturist’s office, it may be time to cut the cord.

You dread your appointments

Most likely, acupuncture provides one of the few hours during the week that’s all about you. It is your time to focus on your own needs and let the rest fall away. You should look forward to this!

If you find yourself dreading your appointments and concocting excuses to reschedule, it probably means there’s something about the experience that’s unpleasant. Try going to someone else and see if you feel differently.

You are discouraged from asking questions

For most of us who were raised to believe that Western medicine is the only acceptable form of healthcare, acupuncture isn’t exactly intuitive. But my qi doesn’t feel blocked. My Kidneys are doing what? Who you calling damp?!

Acupuncture turns many tenets of mainstream medicine on their head, causing you to rethink what it means to become and stay healthy. If you’re a curious person, this is likely to spark some questions.

Your acupuncturist should be willing to field any questions you have about your treatments or acupuncture in general. He or she will not have the answers to everything, but you should feel comfortable bringing up whatever’s on your mind. If you get more eye rolling and sighing than answers, find someone who will treat you with the respect you deserve.

You are in constant pain

A feeling of sharpness from an acupuncture needle occasionally happens, and certain acupuncture points can certainly feel intense. However, on the whole, acupuncture should not be a painful experience. It should be comfortable and relaxing.

Your acupuncturist should encourage you to speak up about any discomfort you have during the treatment. If this isn’t the case, or if you are holding your breath and wincing at each needle insertion, something is not right. Learn more about how acupuncture should feel.

You feel pressured

It is the job of an acupuncturist, and any healthcare practitioner, to make recommendations that he or she believes will improve your outcomes. In many cases, it is wise to follow these recommendations. However, you should not feel pressured into doing anything that you are uncomfortable with.

For example, some acupuncturists also prescribe herbs. In many cases, herbs, when taken in combination with acupuncture, can help produce faster and better results. However, if you have reasons for not wanting to use herbs, you should feel comfortable sharing this with your acupuncturist. The same goes for booking multiple appointments in a week when perhaps you had only budgeted for one.

Your acupuncturist may still try and convince you to take those herbs or book that additional appointment—usually these suggestions are made with your best interest in mind—but it’s about how this convincing happens. If you feel guilted into it, or find yourself regretting your decision to heed the advice, take your business elsewhere.

You don’t like the vibe

Acupuncture can be a drastically different experience depending on who you go to.

Per the stereotype, some acupuncturists adorn their walls with Chinese relics and have a new-age, spiritual vibe in their practices. Others go for more of a modern medical aesthetic. Some seek to create a spa-like experience. Certain acupuncturists surround you with babbling brooks and rushing waves while some blast rock music. Some acupuncturists talk a lot and others believe acupuncture should be quiet time.

All of these styles are acceptable but that doesn’t mean they’re all for you. Chances are, you resonate with some of these environments more than others. Try to let go of judgements, but if being in your acupuncturist’s office makes you cringe or feel uncomfortable, it might be time to try someone new.

You feel financially burdened

Going for regular acupuncture treatments may require that you spend less money on other things for a while. For most of us, this is true of anything that costs money—we must prioritize our spending. However, if going for acupuncture is preventing you from making ends meet, or if you have buyer’s remorse after every treatment, finding a less expensive acupuncturist might be a good idea.

If you associate acupuncture with excessive financial hardship, your stress level will be even higher than normal whenever you go for a treatment. This creates an uphill battle for both you and your acupuncturist.

If money’s an issue, check out a community acupuncture clinic. They are are springing up everywhere and typically charge between $20 and $60 per treatment.

We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: not all acupuncturists are created equal. If yours isn’t working for you, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Try someone new.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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