It’s completely normal to feel nervous prior to your first acupuncture session. The thought of someone jabbing you with needles might conjure up images of a medieval torture session, but the process is virtually painless. Take a deep breath and relax. Once you arm yourself with information and know what to expect, you’ll find that you’ll actually enjoy the experience (really!).
Your first visit to an acupuncturist typically involves a consultation. The practitioner will take your pulse, ask you a variety of questions concerning your health history and lifestyle, examine your tongue, and palpate certain areas of the body to determine the appropriate acupuncture points. While a few of the questions and the tongue examination might seem irrelevant or strange, traditional Chinese medicine is based on a different diagnostic criteria than Western medicine. The information gleaned from the consultation is essential for developing a diagnosis and creating a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. Go with it and answer questions honestly.
After the consultation, you will lie on a table. It’s best to wear something loose fitting so that the practitioner can have access to the necessary acupuncture points. Don’t worry, you won’t be removing any clothing. The first session is usually conservative so that the acupuncturist can evaluate your response to treatment. Once the specific points along the meridians are chosen, the practitioner will insert sterile needles shallowly into the skin to initiate reactions internally. If you’re saying to yourself, “needles are needles,” you’ll be relieved to know that this isn’t true. Needles used for acupuncture are completely different from those used for injections and drawing blood. They are hair-thin and flexible and at most points you won’t feel anything, particularly if you choose an experienced licensed practitioner who knows what they are doing. Some areas may elicit more sensation than others, such as heat, a dull ache, or slight sensitivity. However, the discomfort is minimal and subsides. Once the needles are in place, the acupuncturist will gently adjust them for maximum effectiveness.
Your practitioner will leave the room and allow you to relax for up to a half hour. Often times they will check in on you and make adjustments if it’s necessary. Shut your eyes and enjoy the peace and quiet. When else do you get to take a few minutes out of your day to let go of the outside world? It’s actually common for patients to fall asleep. When your time is up, the needles will be removed, which is also painless. Then you’re free to go.
There’s no significant downtime and you can return to work or go about your daily routine. If you feel tired afterward, it’s recommended that you rest if you need to. Depending on the individual, there may be improvement after one session. Others begin to heal after several sessions. Your acupuncturist will help you set up future appointments and estimate the duration of your treatment. As you go through the process, you’ll probably find that you actually look forward to your sessions. Your practitioner should be willing to answer any questions you have and further put your mind at ease.