Searching for an acupuncturist

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Studies show the treatment can help with pain, fertility and moods. But how to find a skilled practitioner in NYC?


  • Diem Truong. Photo: Susan Marque

  • Herbs at t the Soho Acupuncture Center. Photo: Susan Marque

  • Soho Acupuncture Center. Photo: Susan Marque

When I lived in Los Angeles I used to get acupuncture treatments to help with everything from a sprained ankle to menstruation problems. There are numerous studies showing that acupuncture is useful in treating pain, fertility, moods, and more. It took me a long time to find a licensed doctor of Chinese medicine that I admired and who got consistent results. One person insisted I come back for more treatments than I felt I needed. Another hit a nerve (painful) a couple of times and I didn’t trust their needle technique after that. A third left an aging sick dog in the treatment room and then went on to mention that the dog had picked up fleas just as I was supposed to be relaxing with needles all over my body.

I might have quit acupuncture at that point but I happened to meet Bethany Muhl L.Ac., when I was randomly seated next to her at an event. She offered to give me a free treatment to help with a knee problem and I thought I’d see what she could do.

Muhl fixed my knee in that single session and it seemed she could assist with just about any complaint in two treatments. An added bonus was that she was an artist and fun to talk to. She understood how our emotions play a role in our physical health and would sometimes talk out an issue while she was positioning the acupuncture needles. I thought I would never be able to duplicate her good care in New York without the same sort of trial and error I had gone through in Los Angeles, but I decided to finally dig in when my irritating digestive issue was acting up and I’d tried other options.

The first person I asked was my primary-care physician. Dr. Alan Remde is both an MD and a holistic doctor. He emailed me quickly with three suggestions.

1. There are acupuncturists in the clinic he works out of.

2. He listed phone numbers for the Tri-State College of Acupuncture as a low-cost option. The school has a clinic where well-trained students work under the watchful eye of licensed professors.

3. He gave me ten names and numbers of acupuncturists that he had on a referral list, but didn’t know.

While I like Remde as a physician, I have mixed feelings about the clinic itself, so I passed on the first suggestion even though it would be convenient.

I called my insurance to see if acupuncture was covered. (Be sure to check with yours because many plans do include a limited number of treatments.) Since it wasn’t, I kept looking. I contacted Muhl in case she had a colleague in New York City. She didn’t.

Her suggestions were similar to my physician’s and she leaned towards the budget-friendly school option. I’ve tried that in the past with spotty results. It can be a good way to go, but I really wanted to find a traditional Chinese medicine doctor I could stick with. It’s like finding the right hair stylist who gets you and your needs. I looked at Yelp.

There were many five-star ratings and places with radiant reviews. I picked Soho Acupuncture Center because Diem Truong L.Ac., MSTROM (master’s degree in traditional Oriental medicine) is actually Chinese and I had a good feeling about his practice. My intuition seemed spot on.

The office is large, offering tai chi and qigong classes a few times a week by outside instructors.

Truong took his time to find out a little about me and answer any questions. I liked that his father had also been a traditional Chinese doctor. His grandparents were Chinese and fled to Vietnam, where he was born. Truong’s dad practiced in Vietnam before moving the family to the Bronx, New York where Diem and his two brothers grew up. They went to school uptown and traveled downtown daily to help out in their father’s shop. They learned about herbs and cleaned between patients. Diem was the only one who went on to continue his studies in acupuncture.

While he was in school, Truong worked both as a sushi chef and a bartender. The delicate work with knives has given him a dexterous technique; I barely felt the needles as he swiftly worked. His background in bartending has enhanced his bedside manner. He seems to truly care about his patients and wants to cure what bothers them as quickly as possible. In the Asian tradition, it’s a badge of honor to get someone out of pain or discomfort in a single session. Just when I thought the treatment was over, Truong explained that he was going to do Toina, a type of massage that would enhance the acupuncture. He continues to keep learning whatever he can to bring more to his practice. Each session is custom designed to facilitate speedy results. I liked the treatment and felt safe and cared for, so I definitely would go back.

There are many skilled acupuncturists in this city. Find the one that is the right fit for you.

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