What are the signs of a good acupuncturist? Your good/bad experiences?

My health insurance covers acupuncture, and my orthopedic doctor has recommended it as a possible help for the back pain I’ve been experiencing.

The coverage limitation is, however, that once I’ve picked an acupuncturist, I cannot change that acupuncturist during the approved coverage period.

Now, knowing next to nothing about acupuncture—I have no idea how I can know whether I’m going to like this provider (outside of going to the office and “getting a feel for it” on the surface) This is mildly irritating, because I don’t have loads of time to drive around and interview these people, and I would have no idea what to ask them anyway.

Should I look for an acupuncturist that’s been doing this for a long time? Is there a “school of acupuncture” that is the “Harvard” of oriental medicine? Should I use an acupuncturist at a physical therapy center, or look for one that’s just part of their own acupuncture center?

And a really loaded question: does acupuncture really work? I have 2 parents who always claimed that chiropractors and acupuncturists are quacks, so I’m already coming into this with a healthy amount of suspicion. I can just imagine that a dummy like me will end up at the worst possible place, just based on my own ignorance.

Any good/bad experiences to share?

Well, I’ve always thought acupuncture was a bunch of hooey. You might want to read this.

As long as it doesn’t hurt it’s all good, since it seems to be all placebo effect.

ETA: Rough summary of the data seems to be: It might have an effect beyond placebo, but if so it’s a pretty small one. I believe there was a recent study showing no difference when the needles were placed in the “incorrect” places, also.

There is a western-medicine offshoot of acupuncture called Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). I’ve only had a little exposure to it, but you may want to check it out.

There were two groups in the study, one getting pins in the correct place per acupuncter thought and one getting them in the wrong places. In each group, some people thought that they were getting real acupunture and some didn’t. Overwhelmingly, the people who thought that they were getting the real stuff got the best results.