Just like every patient is unique with specific needs and expectations, every practitioner is also unique with specific training and experience. If acupuncture is a new experience for you, you might be wondering what to expect. While not every acupuncture session is the same, there are a few general principles that will guide your first appointment.
After making your appointment and arriving at the office, you can expect a lengthy health intake interview that might include questions you may never have heard before. Even if you have answered the questionnaire ahead of time, there are several health questions that will be covered in this interview.
You should be prepared to share your care plans with other healthcare providers before diving into whatever your primary health complaint might be. You could be asked about your sleeping and digestive patterns, emotional and mental quality of life, and stress levels just to name a few. It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and completely to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis and to help your practitioner develop an accurate and effective treatment plan.
The purpose of these questions is to uncover the underlying health issue, which might not be what you came in for. For example, the practitioner might be asking about your sleep habits when you are coming in to see them for chronic pain. However, what the practitioner is doing is looking for cues that are leading them to the actual diagnosis of what is happening in your body. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine look at the body in totality, so these questions are really getting to the heart of the issue, even if it feels like it’s irrelevant to you.
The next thing you can expect is a taking of the pulse and an observation of the tongue. Every practitioner has a different technique, taking the pulse is the most objective way to get a feel for what is happening in your entire body. In acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the tongue is believed to be a microcosm of the entire body. This means that observing the quality of the tongue can tell the practitioner what is happening in that corresponding part of the body.
And the next step is the actual treatment. This will consist of very thin, hair-like needles being placed at specific points on the body. Other techniques may include moxibustion, cupping, and herbal therapy depending on the practitioner and their training. You shouldn’t feel too much discomfort during the treatment and make sure you ask any questions, so you feel comfortable before treatment begins or during the treatment as well.
Once the treatment is complete, your acupuncturist will discuss future treatment options and provide any recommendations such as supplements or herbal formulas. If this is not something you are familiar with, don’t hesitate to ask questions. As with any treatment plan, success depends on compliance with all recommendations so make sure you understand all of the recommendations and are prepared to follow all instructions in your care plan.
Your practitioner will then work with you to schedule future appointments regarding your specific treatment plan. Depending on the issue being treated, you may need to go weekly or more often for treatment to keep your qi moving and notice improvement. The benefits of acupuncture can continue for several days after treatment as your body begins to recognize this realignment. However, if you are concerned about any part of your treatment, contact your practitioner immediately to put your mind at ease.
Now that you know what to expect at your first appointment, don’t hesitate to reach out to a practitioner in your area so you can get started with acupuncture treatments right away!