Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Interested in acupuncture but not sure what to expect? It can be a little intimidating going to your first appointment; the idea of needles, the etiquette, not knowing how it will feel... but I've broken down what to know for before, during and after the appointment, to help demystify it all!
What to Wear & Bring
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. I often need to access points on the knees, elbows (and sometimes shoulders, hips, abdomen or back), so shorts and a tank top or sports bra are good choices.
Similar to a massage, you'll have an opportunity to change and get comfortable on the treatment table before we begin, and we'll always have extra sheets or blankets to ensure you're warm enough and covered to your comfort level, no matter what clothes you have with you.
Food & Drink
Pool rules apply here: just like when you go swimming, you'll want to avoid eating a big meal right before your treatment, but a snack an hour before is just fine.
Avoiding drinking too much water before we start, as you'll be lying down for a while. But bringing a water bottle, and staying well hydrated after the treatment is highly encouraged!
Intake Form & Interview
Acupuncturists collect a lot of information from a pre-appointment intake form, to a consultation when you arrive. Similar to a doctor visit, we ask about your health history including medical diagnoses, current medications and supplements, and past surgeries and injuries. This is to rule out any risks or contraindications, and to ensure your safety with the selected treatment.
We also ask seemingly random questions, including some that may seem unrelated to your reason for seeking care: for example, questions about body temperature, food cravings, menstrual cycles or digestion - even if you've come in for shoulder pain! This is because Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic medicine - all systems of the body are connected, and the effectiveness of acupuncture relies on balancing these systems. The details matter!
[That said, I recognize that there are many reasons why it may feel unsafe or challenging to disclose certain health information with a new practitioner. As part of a trauma-informed approach, I will as much as possible explain why I ask certain questions, and work with my patients to their comfort level during the interview process.]
Pulse & Tongue Observation
This one can surprise the uninitiated patient! I may ask to feel the pulse on your wrists and look at your tongue during the interview portion of the appointment. These are both tools of diagnosis in TCM, and give insight into the health and balance of the internal organs, qi, and bodily substances (like blood and yin).
After the consultation, you'll get comfortable on the treatment table. Needles will then be placed, and left in for about 30 minutes. You can choose to rest during this time, or have me come in to check on you.
Does it Hurt?
Generally speaking, no! Acupuncture needles are really thin. Some people don't feel them at all, while others will notice a pinching or pricking sensation, tenderness, or achiness at the needle sites. These feelings are normal and will gradually decrease during the treatment or once the needle is removed.
Acupuncture naturally stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, so overall it's quite relaxing. Some people even fall asleep during their treatments!
I hope this helps demystify what happens at an acupuncture appointment. Of course, if you still have questions, concerns, or would like to speak to me personally about whether acupuncture is right for you, I would love to chat!