Inquiry Into Your Health
Your first acupuncture treatment will start with an in-depth inquiry into your condition. I will ask many questions directly related to your chief complaint, but I will also ask questions about other, seemingly unrelated aspects of your health. Chinese Medicine believes that there is a root cause to every ailment that patients feel. Everyone is different, and your unique body type is called your constitution.
Your individual constitution combined with factors like diet, lifestyle, and stress create strengths and weaknesses in your health.
We, as Chinese Medicine practitioners, don’t just treat symptoms because the symptoms you feel are often clues about a deeper problem. We have to treat the root of the problem or the same symptoms, or similar symptoms will reappear.
In my years of practice I have identified poor diet and stress as the root cause of many ailments. For this reason, I believe healing is a partnership that needs participation from both practitioner and patient. At times it is necessary for a patient to change his/her diet or lifestyle for full healing to occur.
What a Needle Insertion Feels Like
Acupuncture needles are sterile, single use instruments that are approximately the thickness of a cat’s whisker, or a thick hair. One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Do the needles hurt?” Unfortunately there is no one answer because everyone is different. Some patients are not bothered by the insertions, others feel the insertions more. Needle insertions into some parts of the body, like forearms and calves, are hardly felt. However some areas of the body are sensitive, like hands and feet.
When a needle is inserted a patient can feel a number of different sensations but the sensation of the needle being inserted should fade in about 5 seconds to a minute. The experience of acupuncture should be very relaxing once the needles are inserted.
What to Expect From The Treatment
One of four experiences can typically be expected after the first acupuncture treatment.
- The first can be an immediate decrease of pain or discomfort. Patients have gotten up after the treatment very pleased that their symptoms changed significantly during the treatment.
- A second possibility is that there can be a period of hours before relief. I have had patients get up after the treatment and report no change in their condition, but upon returning he or she reported that approximately 2 to 18 hours later he or she felt a significant improvement.
- A third possibility is that symptoms can get worse before they get better. I have had patients report that their pain or discomfort actually increased later that day or that night but then experienced a significant decrease in pain or discomfort upon waking or later the next day.
- The fourth possibility is that nothing happens and there is no change. This may be due to the fact that the chief complaint has been present for so long that multiple treatments may be necessary before relief is felt or that possibly acupuncture is not that particular patient’s solution. I believe it is important to be honest with patients and let them know that acupuncture is not magic nor it is 100% successful. Chinese Medicine is a valid and effective medical system and like others, and it has strengths and weaknesses.
How Many Acupuncture Treatments Will I Need?
Every patient is different. Everyone’s body is different and everyone’s health issues are different. Everyone’s healing path is different also. Some people progress very fast and some take more time.
In the beginning 2 treatments a week are common. I tell patients that if they can come in 2 times a week for 2-3 weeks, a total of 4-6 treatments, they can get a very good idea of how well they will respond to acupuncture. If the patient responds well, appointments can be decreased to once a week. When the reduction of discomfort spans treatment to treatment then I feel comfortable extending the treatments to once every two weeks. This pattern continues until ultimately the patient only returns for “tune ups”, every 1 to 2 months.
What Happens After the Needles Are Inserted
Once the needles are inserted and the patient is comfortable, it is time for the patient to rest. I turn on relaxing music and turn the lights down to encourage complete tranquility.
It is this time that the needles do their work and the patient can assist the process by sitting back and relaxing. Typically during the first treatment the patient will rest approximately 15 minutes. The time is gradually increased to about 30 minutes as the patient returns for follow up treatments. Patients report this time as being not only relaxing but rejuvenating, restoring and refreshing. It is not unusual for me to return to find the patient sleeping.
When I return to the room I remove the needles, which typically is a painless procedure, the patient gets up and puts on his or her shoes. At that time I typically will inquire if the patient has any questions. When the patient is ready and all questions have been answered, he or she will leave the treatment room and the appointment is over.