What to Expect
- Initial Assessment
- What to Expect During the Treatment
- What Do the Needles Feel Like? Do the Needles Hurt?
- What to Expect After Treatment
- Side Effects
- Course of Treatments
- Preparing for Your Treatment
Your first visit begins with a welcome! We are so glad you came and we want you to feel very safe and comfortable here. It's a wonderful and safe medicine and we are so happy you have decided to receive its benefits! We will explain what we do and why and answer all your questions. Sometimes Bailey, or Sunny, one of our therapy dogs will be here to greet you, but they will be placed out of range during your treatment!
There will be some paperwork to fill out if you haven't filled it out from the website. To keep warm, if you wish, you will be offered a soft organic cotton blanket or some relaxing tea. After your practitioner assesses your condition and selects the points, you will receive your first treatment! Most people are so surprised they can barely feel the needles! They often begin to relax immediately. Acupuncture stimulates various chemicals in the body, in minute quantities, such as endorphins, which make patients feel relaxed, alleviate pain, boost the immune system and create a profound sense of well-being. That is why people come for acupuncture. Most people tell us that acupuncture treatments make them feel wonderful in many ways. Some people joke with us and say that the "side effects" of acupuncture are that they also get better in ways other than what they came for! The first treatment takes a little longer than the other treatments, usually more than an hour but typical follow-up treatments last approximately one hour.
During the assessment, you may be asked about things that you might not think are connected to your chief complaint, such as your emotions, sleeping patterns, and eating habits. Chinese medicine considers the whole person, not just one isolated symptom. When put together, the myriad of symptoms and signs you are experiencing reveal patterns of disharmony. Although treatment will focus on your chief complaint, your whole being must be considered in order to develop the most appropriate course of treatment. Chinese medicine is unique in that it appreciates that illnesses may be identical, but the persons suffering from them are individuals. As part of the assessment process, the practitioner may look at your tongue and feel your pulse or have you point to specific areas on the body which are bothering you. All these things help in selecting the most appropriate acupuncture points suitable and specifically for you
What to Expect During the Treatment
Needles are typically retained for 20 to 45 minutes. All needles are sterile and disposable for one time use. Clean needle technique is used. Sometimes a small needle will be placed in specific areas which are bothering you or in areas of the body remote from those affected areas, depending upon your pattern. Sometimes acupuncture needles will be placed in the outer ears. It is amazing that, for example, a needle on the foot can help a pain in the head! This shows how the body is connected and we don't fully understand it. During the treatment, as you desire, music can be played, the lights may be turned down and the practitioner may light incense or a scented candle. Pillows and blankets will be placed as needed and treatment chairs will be adjusted as you desire - many people even fall asleep during treatment! In addition to acupuncture, treatments, if you want them to, may also include heat therapy, use of herbs or linaments, or simple nutrition, exercise, sleep, or life pattern guidelines. If, at any time, you wish to stop the treatment, or have a needle removed, or ask a question, or stay longer and lengthen your treatment stay you may do so at any time.
What do the Needles Feel Like? Do the Needles Hurt?
Acupuncture needles in diameter are flexible and smaller than a human hair. They are not like the needles designed for "shots" or "IVs" in Western medicine. Sometimes patients feel sensations during the treatment, such as a slightly heavy feeling, or tingling at certain acupuncture points. These sensations are not painful, are sometimes amazing or even amusing, and are a good sign of some kind of change occurring in the body. Chinese medicine teaches us there are "natural healing forces" within the body which not only are responsible for us being born and keeping us alive but know what we need to be well and want that to happen. These same healing forces within a plant that make it grow toward the sun are helping you grow in the right way too. Acupuncture builds on that growing life strength within you and is only a "helper" to your own healing life forces, so you are actually really healing yourself! This process is amazing to watch! However, if a patient does not feel these types of sensations, it does not mean the treatment is not working or that the healing forces are absent. Everyone is different. Occasionally, patients will feel a slight sensation as the needle is inserted, but that sensation goes away immediately. Most patients don't feel the needles being inserted at all. During the treatment patients feel no pain. If any sustained uncomfortable sensations are felt, the practitioner expects to hear about it immediately, so that the problem can be eliminated quickly. The acupuncture treatment, itself, is expected to be completely comfortable, safe and pleasant, which is one reason acupuncture is so popular!
What to Expect After Treatment
Your relief may be immediate, delayed for a few hours, or even develop after one to three days. The relief usually lasts for a few hours on the first visit and then lasts longer with each successive treatment, or relief may last from the first treatment until your next visit. Individual response to treatment varies. The effects from acupuncture are cumulative. Usually acupuncture works best if visits occur at least twice per week for the first three weeks so that a good sustained effect can be achieved right from the beginning. Weekly treatments work as well, but the effects will usually take longer.
Side effects are rare, but may include the following: feeling lightheaded, dizziness, sleepiness, euphoria, nausea, slight bruising, residual muscle aches. Any of these side effects are not serious and should only last a short time. Staying hydrated after your treatment will help to minimize these side effects, as will resting after your treatment. Side effects are also minimized by eating a meal before a treatment. No patient should receive a treatment on an empty stomach. Any side effects should be reported at your next visit. Although the literature reports the possibility of infection, infections are very rare, as the needles are sterile for one time use only and clean technique is used.
On rare occasions, one's original symptoms may briefly get worse, or "flare-up," after a treatment. A flare-up typically occurs later on the day of your treatment and should only last for a few hours. If the flare-up lasts longer or is particularly bothersome, please call the practitioner. Placing a few more needles in strategic places on the body will usually immediately correct the problem. After a flare-up, your symptoms should begin to improve. In the long run, acupuncture does not make symptoms worse, but makes them better.
In some conditions, the body must fully expel a pathogen in order for healing to occur. For example, if you have a cold, acupuncture will not get rid of the cold, but it can help accelerate the cold cycle so your body recovers faster. If you are fatigued and beginning to get a cold, acupuncture can help your body fight it off.
In cases of chronic pain, your original pain may improve and then unmask less obvious pain in the surrounding areas. Those unmasked areas can then be treated as well approaching even more complete relief!
Course of Treatments
In general, acute conditions of recent onset may only require two or three treatments. Chronic conditions usually require more treatments to achieve sustained results. For pain conditions, it is suggested for best results that patients come twice per week for at least three weeks before scheduling treatments less often.Please keep in mind that all of this is flexible, depending upon your needs.
The ideal approach to illness is to begin treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you seek help, the easier it is to treat. For longstanding illnesses, weekly or biweekly treatments may be required for several months before the patient feels that significant results are fully sustained. After finishing your course of treatments, you do not have to return to acupuncture. However, many patients like coming and come back a few times per year either for a different problem, a temporary or minor reactivation of symptoms, or for a "tune up" because they feel acupuncture benefits them. You are always welcome to come back for acupuncture treatments. Part of the teachings of Chinese Medicine is to "trust your own body and what it is telling you." If you feel acupuncture may help you, but, perhaps can't verbalize why, we suggest you trust that feeling and come in for a treatment. Similarly, if your body is saying that you have had enough acupuncture for now, feel free to stop receiving acupuncture. You can always change your mind again and will always be welcome back.
Once you initiate a healing process, it is important to follow through on treatments. The more consistent you are, the better the likelihood of results. The effects of acupuncture tend to be cumulative. After you are feeling better, a few additional treatments may be recommended. In Chinese medicine, this is referred to as "solidifying the constitution." The goal is to further strengthen your body to prevent recurrence of the illness. Your body is most vulnerable following recovery from illness because it has expended much of its energy and internal resources in order to get better. It is therefore important to have a few additional treatments in order to prevent repeated or new illness.
Preparing for Your Treatment
The following suggestions are provided to help you have a safe and relaxing experience with acupuncture.
- Eat a light meal a few hours prior to your visit. Being over-hungry increases the risk of nausea or dizziness.
- Avoid alcohol on the day of your treatment. Acupuncture is not performed on intoxicated individuals. It is also not advisable to become intoxicated shortly after treatment.
- Avoid strenuous physical exercise 6 hours before and 6 hours after a treatment.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Acupuncture points are located all over the body. Many of the acupuncture points that are commonly used are located between the wrists and elbows and the ankles and knees. You will be more comfortable if your clothing can be easily rolled up to your elbows and knees.