At my acupuncture treatment room in Lincoln I frequently get asked about how to prepare for an appointment, what to expect from acupuncture, and if it hurts. So, with this is mind, I thought it would be useful to write a handy guide to some of the most commonly raised questions. You can find lots more information on the British Acupuncture Council website, and their short video on FAQs, if you can’t find an answer here. Alternatively please feel free to get in touch, as I am always happy to answer any queries you may have about acupuncture and how it can help you.
What should I wear to my appointment?
Many commonly used acupuncture points are located on your arms and legs. Therefore, for your own comfort, you may wish to wear loose clothing. If there is a need to disrobe further, this will be discussed with you and your consent obtained. Please be assured though that your privacy is respected at all times.
Do I need to eat before an acupuncture appointment, or should I avoid food beforehand?
A snack or light meal is recommended at least an hour before appointments. Additionally, it is advisable to avoid alcohol during that day. Try not to have a large meal within a couple of hours of treatment or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, arrive on an empty stomach.
Why does my initial consultation take longer than the rest?
During your initial consultation a medical history is taken. It is helpful to have details of any medication you are taking, or have done so previously. We will discuss the symptoms that have brought you to acupuncture and how they impact on your life and health. You will also have an opportunity to ask any questions or discuss any concerns. Consent will be obtained before any treatment begins.
An important part of the traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis is an examination of your tongue and pulse. This gives the practitioner a general insight on how to interpret your symptoms. It also helps provide a unique and specific diagnosis for your condition. Observing how these signs change over the course of your appointments helps measure any improvements, and hone your future treatment plan.
The consultation is also an opportunity to discuss, where appropriate, diet and lifestyle issues which may be impacting on your condition.
How do you choose which acupuncture points to use?
When all of this information has been gathered a diagnosis is formulated from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective. This means acupuncture points are chosen specifically for you, beneficial both from a symptomatic and under-lying level. This system of healthcare recognises the importance of both aspects in improving symptoms and restoring a longer-term balance.
To begin with, especially if this is your first experience of acupuncture, your initial treatment will comprise just a few specially selected points. Some people are nervous of needles and this will be taken into account at all times. If you are particularly unsure, other treatments, such as cupping, may be used.
How many appointments will I need?
This can vary dependent on the condition and patient. As a general rule more chronic conditions often taken longer, perhaps 4-6 treatments before any significant improvement is noted. However, in many instances people respond more quickly. During your initial consultation this will be discussed, and reviewed at regular intervals. Acupuncture does not help everyone, and if your condition is not improving we will discuss whether it is worth continuing with treatment.
In the first instance most patients would require a weekly appointment, occasionally more frequently. In many cases after a few treatments this may be extended to fortnightly or once every three weeks or so. Once the condition is settled some people choose to come for “maintenance” treatments. This is perhaps every month or 6 weeks, although it’s very much down to your personal choice.
What happens during an acupuncture appointment?
There is no such thing as a typical appointment, each one is unique to the person on that particular day. Sometimes it is necessary to remove items of clothing (NOT underwear) so that particular areas of the body can be reached. However, this is discussed and agreed during the consultation. Consent for this is obtained before any treatment is carried out. Your privacy is respected at all times, and towels are used to cover up areas not being treated. If you feel unhappy or uncomfortable with any aspect please make this known as your treatment can be modified accordingly. Indeed it can be ceased altogether if this is your wish.
No treatment will be carried out without your express agreement. If you have any worries or concerns, no matter how small, please feel free to speak out and discuss. You can be assured of being listened to and your wishes respected.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture is a balancing treatment and should not be a painful or uncomfortable experience. The intention being to reduce pain rather than create it! The needles are very fine and many people find that they are not even aware of them being inserted. However, it is normal if a dull ache or a tingly sensation is felt.
Once the needles are in place you will be encouraged to rest, a valuable opportunity to allow the acupuncture to do its job. Many people find this experience very pleasant, relaxing and peaceful, some even fall to sleep on the couch! As this is an individual treatment room there is no rushing to see other patients, so you have full and considered attention, should you need it, at all times.
Afterwards you may feel tired, particularly in the beginning, and occasionally this may last for up to a couple of days afterwards. It is it recommended that you do not undertake strenuous activity after a treatment, and avoid alcohol for the rest of the day.
Mild bruising or some soreness around the area of insertion can sometimes be experienced. This is not unusual or cause for concern. However, if this becomes severe, more painful, or if you are worried in any way, please get in touch with me as soon as possible.
Occasionally you can feel light-headed after a treatment, if so please let me know. Do not drive or operate machinery if this should be the case.