Answers to common questions about what to expect 

If you are new to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, you probably have questions about what to expect. Here are answers to some of the questions we get asked most frequently.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are typically not much thicker than a human hair, and their insertion is nothing like getting a shot. In some cases, you will not even know the needles are in place. In others, there may be some tingling, warmth, heaviness, or a feeling of movement.

Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing, and many fall asleep during treatment.

Is acupuncture safe?

When performed by a competently trained, licensed professional, acupuncture is extremely safe.

All licensed acupuncturists today use individually packaged, sterile, disposable needles, so there is virtually no chance of infection or contagion.

What happens in an initial consultation?

After you complete an initial questionnaire, your practitioner will review your health, injury, and treatment histories with you.

They will listen carefully as you describe your concerns and your goals.

Then they will conduct a thorough exam, including feeling for heat or coolness in particular areas, checking your pulses and looking at your tongue, all of which are primary diagnostic tools in Chinese medicine.

The intent of acupuncture (and Chinese medicine) is to treat the whole person, not just isolated symptoms. This makes it possible to discover underlying causes of the original complaint and to treat the root of the problem.

With this in mind, your practitioner will report their findings and outline a treatment plan, which will likely include acupuncture and Chinese herbs, along with dietary, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations. Then you will choose how you want to move forward.

What’s a treatment like?

Acupuncture 4 Health’s philosophy is “less is better.”

Typical treatments, after checking in about how you are feeling since the last treatment and evaluating your current condition, involve resting on a table after the needles have been inserted.

In some cases, your practitioner may also use other modalities such as moxibustion, tuina massage, or electrical stimulation.

You will relax in this way for up to 30 minutes. Then your practitioner will return, remove the needles and make recommendations for the coming days.

It is advisable to allow yourself a little “integration” time before you return to your day-to-day pace and routine.

How many treatments will I need?

That depends on the duration, severity, and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment for an acute condition.

A series of five to 10 treatments may resolve many chronic problems. Some degenerative conditions may require many treatments over time.

To help complement and support your course of treatment, your practitioner may suggest dietary modifications, specific exercise regimes, relaxation techniques, self-massage, and/or Chinese herbal medicines, all of which may help to increase the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments.

As effective as acupuncture is for chronic and acute conditions, it was initially conceived as a wellness or prevention-type of medicine. In ancient times, an acupuncturist was paid only if the patient remained healthy.

If you are receiving acupuncture to promote and enhance your wellness, you may choose to be treated on a regular, periodic basis for life.

Is Chinese herbal medicine safe?

Chinese herbal medicine is safe when prescribed by a licensed herbalist, based on a comprehensive traditional Chinese medical diagnosis.

It utilizes naturally occurring herbs and minerals. There is a very low risk for side effects. In fact, Chinese herbs often can help reduce the side effects of many western medications.

Many people choose Chinese herbal medicine as a safe alternative and/or complement to western over-the-counter medications or some prescription medications. An added benefit is that herbal medicine comes with a very low risk of dependence.

Chinese herbal medicine can be used to: treat acute ailments like a cold or injury, as well as chronic ailments such as respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders, migraines, insomnia, and diabetes, to name just a few.

A more complete list of conditions treated by acupuncture is available.

Remember, Chinese medicine is a wellness medicine. It is meant to keep you balanced and healthy to prevent illness.

Do I have to stop taking my prescription medications?

Please don’t. In our culture, acupuncture is best used as a complementary medicine, meaning done along with standard medical care.

It is important to inform your acupuncturist of all the medications you take so that they have all the information necessary for designing a beneficial treatment plan and avoiding negative interactions.

Most western medications will not react adversely with Chinese herbs, but if we feel it is not safe, you will not be prescribed herbs. The biggest factor to successfully taking western meds and Chinese herbs is the amount of time between doses. For example, if you take a western drug in the morning, we would ask that the Chinese herb be taken 2 hours later.

After a few treatments, you may need a medication adjustment because your body is doing its job better and needs less support from medication. This decision is one you and your physician will make, but your acupuncturist may recommend that you see your doctor to review your medications.

What should I do (And what should I avoid) before receiving an acupuncture treatment?

  • Wear loose clothing. Women should not wear one-piece dresses.
  • Avoid wearing tight stockings.
  • Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, extremely hungry, overly full, emotionally upset or shortly after sex.
  • Eat something one to two hours before your appointment.
  • Avoid brushing your tongue the day of treatment.
  • Avoid alcohol or other stimulants before a treatment.
  • What should I do while receiving acupuncture?
  • Turn off your cell phone, your PDA, your pager. This is your time to focus on yourself.
  • Relax, breathe, and tune in to your body.
  • Ask any questions you have along the way so that you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment.
  • Do not change your position or move suddenly.
  • Report sensations. Tell your practitioner if you experience discomfort. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t right.

What can I expect after treatment?

Immediately following a treatment, you may feel a bit fuzzy-brained, blissful, or ungrounded. Take a few moments to bring yourself back to earth. Have a drink of water. Give yourself a bit of time to readjust to “real life.”

Patients often experience dramatic results in the first treatment. Some patients will experience immediate relief of pain or other symptoms. This relief may last, or some pain may return. In some cases, relief may not be immediate and the pain may diminish over the next few days. Rarely, the patient will experience a worsening of symptoms over the next 48 hours, only to enjoy significant relief thereafter.

I’ve tried it before and ...

The most successful acupuncture treatments bring together the skillfulness of the practitioner in connecting with the patient, an accurate diagnosis, an appropriate treatment plan, and the readiness of the patient to engage in the healing journey. If you tried acupuncture before and did not experience positive results, one or more of those aspects may have been missing.

There is a wide range of skill, styles, and personalities among acupuncturists, just as there are with most helping professions. It may take a couple of attempts to find a practitioner with whom you feel comfortable. It’s worth the effort.

Also, many states, including South Dakota, allow MDs and chiropractors to offer acupuncture after minimal training and, possibly, licensing through their respective boards.

An acupuncturist licensed by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has completed a three- or four-year program of full-time study and hundreds of hours of clinical internships to receive their Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine. Like other highly trained professionals, they maintain this license with annual continuing education.

Check with your practitioner for details about their primary training and focus.

Still have questions about what to expect?

Give us a call.

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