Originating thousands of years ago, acupuncture is a safe and effective form of alternative medicine. It can treat a wide range of symptoms and illnesses and is used worldwide. The information below is intended to provide some basic information regarding what you might experience at your first visit to a practitioner of oriental medicine.

Your First Visit

Typically, your first visit will be longer than your follow-up visits. You can easily expect a first appointment to last around 1 1/2 hours.  The reasons for this is mainly due to your obligation to fill out of paperwork and the duty of the practitioner to ask you important and extensive questions.

As the practitioner gathers information about you and your reasons for visiting, you may be surprised by the types of questions you are asked. For example, you may be asked about your bowel movements, or about your temperature. Simultaneously, the practitioner will be asking to see your tongue and observing smells, as well as your overall appearance. These are all important clues for the doctor to help determine how he or she can best serve you. Another diagnostic tool to expect is pulse diagnosis. Using this method, the practitioner will feel your pulse in three different positions, at three different depths on each arm. You may think he or she is searching for your pulse, when in fact, he or she is feeling the quality of your pulse and making a diagnosis based on findings.

An incredible strength of oriental medicine lies in its ability to tailor each treatment to each individual. For this reason, people will often receive acupuncture for a specific complaint, but will also experience many other seemingly unrelated benefits.

Needles and Adjunctive Techniques

What are the needles like?

Acupuncture needles are thin and sterile. Actually, many people are surprised at their size. The needles can range in sizes, from 1/5 inch to much longer. But don’t worry, your practitioner will not insert a needle deeper than necessary.

What does it feel like?

Typically, when the needle is first inserted, you may feel a bit of pressure. Some people feel as though someone is tapping them. In some cases, you will feel a prick, and in others you will not feel anything at all. It’s not uncommon for people to ask the practitioner when he or she will begin inserting needles, only to learn that the needles are already in place.  Once the needles are inserted, the practitioner may manipulate the needles to activate the qi. At this time, you may feel tingling, distending, pressure, or a variety of sensations. Each person has their own unique way to feel upon the arrival of qi.

How long are the treatments?

A treatment can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. Depending on the methods of the practitioner, and your individual case, this time may vary.

What other techniques may be part of my treatment?

Acupuncture is simply one tool practitioners of oriental medicine can choose to utilize. During an acupuncture treatment, an acupuncturist may use other therapies that can help assist in achieving lasting results.  These adjunct therapies may include the following:

Electro-acupuncture – an electrical device is hooked to the the acupuncture needles, from which electrical impulses are discharged. This is often used in patients dealing with pain, and for those in stroke rehab.

Moxibustion – this method involves burning of an herb called Artemesia Vulgaris. A practitioner may burn the moxa on the tip of a needle, or hold it over a patient’s skin. Moxibustion is often used in patients dealing with cold or stagnant conditions such as specific types of abdominal or muscular cramps.

Cupping – In this therapy, plastic or glass cups are placed on the body by using suction.  Cupping can help remove toxins and tension. They are used often in patients with immune issues such as a cold as well as for pain and muscle tension.

Tuina – used for a wide variety of conditions, Tuina is like a massage for the meridians.

Whatever treatment your practitioner recommends, you are in control. If something is uncomfortable, or if you feel it’s not working for you, be sure to communicate with your practitioner. Likewise, if you feel your treatment helped, speak up so that your practitioner can make note.


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