bi syndrome_full_optBy Eric Kerr

Many people have tried acupuncture once and never gone back.

“It hurt.”

“I felt judged.”

“It didn’t work.”

“I was bored.”

“It was too weird.”

Acupuncturists hear these complaints a lot. A single bad experience can be enough to turn someone off to acupuncture forever. This is unfortunate, as acupuncture can be very broad.

From spas to hospitals, private practices to community clinics, battlefields to correctional facilities, acupuncture’s dynamic nature makes it effective in a variety of settings. Sometimes simply trying acupuncture in a new venue can completely change your impression.

Although, it’s usually not where someone gets acupuncture—and almost never acupuncture itself—that causes negative sentiments. It’s from whom. No matter where you get acupuncture, the biggest influence on your experience is the acupuncturist.

When people tell me tales of acu-disappointment, I suggest that maybe they went to the wrong person.

Not all acupuncturists are created equal

With an appropriate amount of truth and humor, I often tell people that finding the right acupuncturist is like finding the right hairstylist.

The right acupuncturist should be skilled, affordable, and able to address your unique needs. And just like with a hairstylist, you should enjoy the time you spend with him, since you will (hopefully) be getting together on a regular basis.

Even more so than the various settings in which acupuncture is offered, acupuncturists’ styles, specialties, and attitudes are all over the map—and can make a huge difference in your experience.

Beginning with their first day of training, acupuncturists start heading in different directions.

While there are some universal topics covered in acupuncture school, for the most part, curriculums vary widely. Depending on where an acupuncturist went to school, he or she might have a drastically different approach to acupuncture than the acupuncturist two doors down.

In practice, acupuncturists develop their own preferences and treatment styles.

Some acupuncturists specialize in certain conditions while others choose to focus their practices on general wellness. Some use thin needles while others use really thin needles (Japanese-style acupuncturists tend to reach for the super thin ones.) Some use a lot of needles while others think less is more.

The bed/chair side manner and personality of an acupuncturist also influence the acupuncture experience.

Some acupuncturists play music while others think it’s distracting. Some chat you up all treatment long, offering advice on everything from your diet to TV habits, while others encourage silence and let the needles speak for themselves.

In my practice, I actually allow people to socialize with each other during group treatments. I feel it encourages community building in a healing environment—after all, people go to cafes and bars for reasons other than just food and drink. This social acupuncture setting works for my patients and me, but it’s not for everyone.

Enjoying and getting good results from acupuncture is all about finding someone who speaks your language.

Finding the right acupuncturist doesn’t always happen on the first try. If you’ve had a bad experience, think about this: If you get one bad haircut, which we all have, you don’t stop getting your hair cut forever, right?

Just like finding that special stylist who works magic on your hair, discovering the acupuncturist who’s right for you can be transformative. Click here to start your search.

Photo by Sara Calabro

eric kerr_san francisco, ca2Eric Kerr is a San Francisco-based acupuncturist who enjoys making Chinese Medicine accessible. His practical, no-nonsense approach to acupuncture helps guide his patients on the path to wellness.

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